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Kaiser Bungles X-Ray, Girl Suffers, Dad Says

IRVINE, Calif. (CN) - Kaiser's delivery of an X-ray to the wrong doctor resulted in major surgery and a permanent scar for a 14-year-old girl, her father claims in Orange County Court.

Nicole Ley, now 16, had taken two bites of a barbecued hamburger during a family dinner on Jan. 10, 2010, when she felt something lodge in her throat. Attempts were made to clear the unknown object out, but parents Marc and Tina could not see anything. Nicole then began having a hard time breathing and complained of persistent pain. Marc and Tina are insured by Anthem Blue Cross, but rushed their daughter to a Kaiser Permanente hospital because it was the closest to their home.

An x-ray was taken of her throat, but Dr. Nak B. Chhiv said he did not see any foreign objects and that Nicole probably scratched her esophagus while eating the hamburger. He added she would need to "tough it out."

Nicole was cleared to go home and Chhiv told the family the radiologist would look at the x-ray to confirm his findings. They were told the radiologist would call the next day if there were any unforeseen problems.

Four days later, Nicole was still experiencing significant pain. On Jan. 15, 2010, she woke up with a 101.6 degree fever, prompting her mother to take her to the pediatrician. Dr. Michael B. Nestor, a Kaiser emergency room doctor on duty the night Nicole showed up, called while they were en route, explaining that the x-ray was mistakenly put in his in-box. He said he had passed Nicole off to Dr. Chhiv during a shift change and that the x-ray should not have been put in his in-box since he was leaving for vacation. He did not see it until four days later, when he returned.

He then informed Tina he had discovered a foreign object in her daughter's throat and she needed to get her to a hospital. Tina and Nicole raced to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, where a CT scan revealed the foreign body was lodged dangerously close to her carotid artery. Nicole was transported to Childrens Hospital of Orange County where she stayed for seven days. On Jan. 19, 2010, cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Brian Palafox, performed surgery to remove a metallic bristle that had migrated, penetrated through the esophagus and abutted against the carotid artery.

"If proper interpretation of abnormal x-ray findings had been communicated at an earlier date, the metallic foreign body would not have moved/migrated approximately 1 cm abutting carotid artery," the complaint states. "Nicole Ley has suffered very significant physical and emotional injuries. She has suffered with significant depression, nightmares, difficulty concentrating and became withdrawn and introverted."

She was consequently diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has been receiving treatment from a psychotherapist, according to the complaint.

"Her school work suffered and she later switched schools," the complaint states. "She has felt very self-conscious about the scar on her neck and consulted with a plastic surgeon about scar revision."

Plaintiff is suing for negligence and is seeking general, incidental and consequential damages, in addition to medical and related expenses, and loss of earnings and earning capacity.

Ronald E. Harrington of Irvine represents Ley.

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