Maureen Pacheco suffered from back pain she hoped the fusing of vertebrae in her lower back could fix. A surgeon instead removed one of her kidneys. Dr. Ramon Vazquez, whom Pacheco met moments before going under the knife at Florida's Wellington Regional Medical Center on April 29, 2016, was supposed to expose the site causing her pain since a car accident the previous year before turning the scalpel over to Pacheco's orthopedic surgeons, the Palm Beach Post reports. Instead, however, Vazquez removed a mass he thought was a cancerous tumor. Had he looked at Pacheco's MRIs, Vazquez would've known it was actually a perfectly good kidney, though one that didn't ascend from the pelvic region to the abdomen during fetal development, according to a lawsuit. Horrified, Pacheco now fears "lifelong kidney transplant or dialysis," per CNN.
Malpractice insurers for Pacheco's two other surgeons covered separate $250,000 settlements. Vazquez, who didn't have malpractice insurance, settled the claim in September "for a nominal amount" after faulting the hospital and did not admit liability, according to his lawyer. His troubles might not be over. Florida’s Department of Health has also filed an administrative complaint, which means Vazquez could be forced to pay a fine or even give up his medical license, though Pacheco's lawyer sees that as an unlikely outcome. Wellington Regional has already cut ties with Vazquez, the chairman of surgery at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, who was acting as an independent physician at the time. In the hospital's "over-30-year history … an incident of this nature has never occurred before or since," it says, per the Washington Post. (It's certainly happened elsewhere.)