Tonsil Surgery-Gone-Wrong Not Hospital's First

Rebecca Jimenez left severely brain damaged after similar surgery in 2011

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 27, 2013 12:01 PM CST

(Newser) – It turns out Jahi McMath isn't the first case of a tonsillectomy-gone-wrong at Children's Hospital Oakland. Two years ago, Rebecca Jimenez, then 8, went in for a similar tonsil surgery to treat her sleep apnea; now she can't walk or speak because of the severe brain damage she suffered in its aftermath—though unlike Jahi, she does have some brain activity, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Rebecca's parents sued the hospital's anesthesiology unit, surgeon, and anesthesiologist for medical negligence and settled for $4.4 million; a separate settlement with the hospital in that case has not been disclosed.

Though different doctors performed the two surgeries, Jahi's case "is eerily and sadly reminiscent—startlingly so—to what happened to Rebecca," the Jimenez's lawyer said. But there are key differences, too. Doctors labelled Rebecca's surgery "uncomplicated" in contrast to Jahi's "complicated" surgery, which involved the removal of throat and nose tissue. While Jahi began bleeding shortly after surgery, Rebecca was discharged in what her lawyer calls a "constellation of mistakes"; her worried mother was told by a post-op hotline to wait five hours to see if the girl's situation (Rebecca's eyes had rolled back in her head) improved. When she brought Rebecca to the ER, a brain scan discovered severe swelling. In a statement, the hospital noted that "over the course of its 100 years, Children's Hospital & Research Center has successfully cared for tens of thousands of children who have had great outcomes." Click for the latest on Jahi's case.

Jahi McMath was declared brain-dead after routine tonsil surgery this month.
Jahi McMath was declared brain-dead after routine tonsil surgery this month.   (AP Photo/Courtesy of McMath Family and Omari Sealey)
This undated photo provided by the McMath family and Omari Sealey shows Jahi McMath.
This undated photo provided by the McMath family and Omari Sealey shows Jahi McMath.   (AP Photo/Courtesy of McMath Family and Omari Sealey)
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