Jefferson Airplane Star Accuses Hospital of Disabling Him

MANHATTAN (CN) – Short half a tongue and a thumb after a hellish hospital stay, a co-founder of the legendary rock band Jefferson Airplane brought a federal complaint Thursday against the doctors he says ended his ability to continue performing.

The rock band Jefferson Airplane poses in their Pacific Heights, San Francisco, apartment on Dec. 5, 1968. They are, from left: Marty Balin, Grace Slick, Spencer Dryden, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady. A lawsuit filed by Balin, 77, filed against Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital says the singer and guitarist lost part of his tongue and has a paralyzed vocal cord because of the procedure done after he was hospitalized for an emergency heart surgery in 2016. (AP Photo, File)

Coinciding with the 49th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock music festival in New York’s Catskill Mountains, where Jefferson Airplane played a headlining set after sunrise Sunday morning, Marty Balin brought the suit in Manhattan with attorneys at the law firm Jaroslawicz & Jaros.

Balin, born Martyn Buchwald, says he lives in Tampa, Florida, but was in New York on March 11, 2016, because he was scheduled to play the following night at the Cutting Room.

On the eve of the performance, Balin was hospitalized at Mount Sinai Beth Israel for emergency cardiac treatment, including open heart surgery and a triple bypass.

He says the admitting physician should never have given him a bed, however, “because he knew the hospital was in the process of closing down and did not have adequate and proper faculty to treat a patient for a serious heart condition, particularly following heart surgery.”

Balin ultimately “required a tracheotomy due to the defendants’ negligence,” the complaint states.

“Mr. Balin walked into the hospital able to speak and with a fully functioning left hand,” the complaint states.

“By the time Mr. Balin was finally released from the hospital, he had lost half of his tongue so that he cannot eat or sleep properly; he also has a paralyzed vocal chord; he has a necrotic left hand and has lost his left thumb; he had become totally disabled and has never recovered properly.”

The suit, which names six doctors as co-defendants, cites improper and prolonged intubation with too much pressure on the tongue, with blood building up around tracheotomy site, as the cause of the injuries to Balin’s tongue and vocal cords.

Balin, now 77, blames an unattended IV meanwhile for the necrotic infection that cost him his left thumb.

Alleging “serious mismanagement and understaffing issues” at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Balin and his wife seek damages in excess of $100,000.

A representative for the Mount Sinai Health System declined to comment on the details of the pending lawsuit, but said “we can share our highest priority is delivering the highest level of compassionate care to our patients.”

Aside from founding Jefferson Airplane, Balin was also an early pioneer of the now-ubiquitous electric rock club, having opened the San Francisco club the Matrix in 1965 as a response to gentler, acoustic-only mandates of the then-popular folk-music scene.

The Matrix, and its house band the Jefferson Airplane, became a thriving hub of California’s psychedelic rock scene, serving as a venue for early career performances from the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, the Doors and the Velvet Underground.

Just a few of Jefferson Airplane’s counterculture hits include “White Rabbit,” “Volunteers” and “Somebody to Love.”

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