For one Florida woman, a routine robotic surgery at Orange Park Medical Center led to an unbelievable and catastrophic series of events that left her with a mouthful of blow fly maggots and ultimately ended in her death.
Dorothy Mooneyham, age 76, entered Orange Park Medical Center on November 13, 2015 to undergo surgery to her left lung. Although she suffered from lung cancer, the condition was operable, and Mooneyham’s doctors were confident she would have a successful recovery and outcome.
Instead, the life of an otherwise healthy, independent, and self-sufficient woman was cut tragically short due to medical negligence.
“No one thought this was the end of her life,” said attorney Frank Ashton who, along with his law partner, Marc Hardesty, is representing the family in a medical negligence and elder abuse action against Orange Park Medical Center.
According to Ashton, Mooneyham developed respiratory difficulties after the surgery. She suffered a cardiac arrest on November 25, leaving her with severely diminished mental capacity. Hospital staff transferred her to the hospital’s intensive care unit, where she was intubated.
Five days after the intubation in the ICU, hospital staff discovered maggots crawling from Mooneyham’s mouth.
Ashton said this should have never been possible, as flies should never be able to gain entry to a hospital ICU where they can infest and infect helpless patients.
Further, ICU protocol calls for “mouth checks” and oral hygiene care on intubated patients every one to two hours so any fly eggs should have been discovered long before they hatched.
“It’s like third world medicine,” he stated. “This is not something you find occurring in a modern American hospital and particularly not in an intensive care unit, which is supposed to be one of the most sanitary, disease-free areas of any hospital.”
Two of the maggots were sent to the entomology department at the University of Florida in Gainesville where they were identified as blow fly maggots, which have a gestational period of approximately 24 hours. A single female blow fly can lay anywhere between 150 and 250 eggs.
Hospital records show ICU staff suctioned multiple maggots from Mooneyham’s mouth after maggots were found crawling out of her mouth.
The following morning, hospital workers found another maggot on Mooneyham’s bed linens. Doctors performed a tracheotomy and inserted a probe into Mooneyham’s esophagus to determine if any maggots had infested her lungs.
The family was assured by the hospital that any flies had been eliminated from the ICU and that their mother, her bed and her room had been carefully inspected to ensure that all maggots had been removed. Despite these assurances, two days later, a doctor found another maggot attached to Mooneyham’s inner left thigh.
“At this point, the family was beside themselves,” Marc Hardesty explained. “They wanted her anywhere but there.”
Mooneyham was transferred to hospice care, where she died just four days after she was discharged from the hospital.
“How can something like this happen in a modern American hospital?” That’s what the family wants to know, Hardesty said.
“They want this story to get out because they don’t ever want this to happen to anybody else again,” he said. “This should never happen to someone’s mother or grandmother.”
Orange Park Medical Center is owned by Hospital Corporation of America, which is headquartered in Nashville and operates 168 hospitals and 116 freestanding surgery centers in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
In 2014, three Orange Park Medical Center employees, including a physician and a nurse practitioner, filed lawsuits against the hospital and HCA, alleging widespread medical malpractice and substandard care that contributed to patient deaths.
The lawyers representing the family of Dorothy Mooneyham have filed a lawsuit today and can be reached at (904) 398-2212 or through their website.