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UPDATE — Tragedy Under the Knife: Teen dies months after breast augmentation surgery

Emmalyn Nguyen
Nguyen is now in a permanently vegetative state

DENVER (KRDO) -- 14 months after Emmalyn Nguyen went in for breast augmentation surgery, she passed away due to complications.

According to her family's lawyer, David Woodruff, Nguyen died October 4th. She most recently had started responding by smiling at her parents, and was close to being cared for at home, instead of a long-term skilled facility.

The teen was left in a vegetative state after she stopped breathing under anesthesia, August 1, 2019.

Previous story below --

Days blend into weeks. Emmalyn Nguyen is trapped in a 20-by-20 foot room. She's silent. Her body won't move.

The 18-year-old was ready to see the world, and launch her own travel vlog on YouTube.

That dream turned into a nightmare on August 1st, 2019. She went in to get breast augmentation surgery -- she had been saving up through high school for it -- and according to a now-filed complaint, moments after she was put under general anesthesia, stopped breathing.

She then went into cardiac arrest.

"We just feel so helpless," said Emmalyn's mother, Lynn Fam. "We never thought this would be happening."

According to the complaint filed by Fam, Emmalyn was unmonitored 15 minutes before anyone returned back to her operating room. It would then be five and a half hours before anyone on her surgical team at the Greenwood Village-based Colorado Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery center, called 911.

Listen to the full 911 call here.

"They attempted CPR on her twice, and finally got her heartbeat back but were unable to revive her," said lawyer David Woodruff, who is representing Emmalyn's family. "They would have known she suffered a significant brain injury. Their carelessness, frankly, ruined this girl's life."

The State Board of Medical Examiners -- in an emergency meeting -- determined the plastic surgeon overseeing Emmalyn, Dr. Geoffrey Kim, was "guilty of a deliberate and willful violation of the Medical Practice Act." Additionally, the panel concluded that -- despite the requests of fellow healthcare providers there overseeing Nguyen -- Dr. Kim failed to contact emergency providers.

Dr. Kim's license is currently suspended -- but, according to the Department of Regulatory Agencies, could be relinquished.

Rex Meeker has agreed to not practice as a certified nurse anesthetist temporarily; however, he is allowed to practice as a registered nurse in the state of Colorado. The Board of Nursing has yet to make a final ruling on Mr. Meeker's license.

As for registered nurse Shay Hubert, she can practice "unencumbered" in Colorado.

All of those named in the suit, though their lawyers, deny any wrongdoing.

Safety of Coloradans in the balance

Like so many other office-based surgery centers, Colorado Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery isn't regulated by the state. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment isn't required to license these types of office-based surgery centers, that operate under a doctor's individual license, nor is the Department of Regulatory Agencies. DORA only oversees individual doctor complaints.

The current lack of oversight leaves patients in Colorado no paper trail to search a facility's health grade.

Certain states do require accreditation, or an added layer of protection, however: California, New York, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, and Washington, according to the American Association for the Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities.

"I think we've got to go to those states and figure out what's working and make sure we're doing our best here in Colorado," said Democrat Rep. Jonathan Singer, who is the Public Health Care and Human Services Chair. "It is shocking to know that somebody is getting plastic surgery and there's no oversight from the state, other than that specific doctor's license."

Rep. Singer vows to look into what can be done in Colorado to close the loophole.

Health / Health News / Local News / News / News Headlines / Special Reports / State & Regional News

Heather Skold

Heather is the evening anchor for KRDO. Learn more about Heather here.

Comments

17 Comments

  1. “Rex Meeker has agreed to not practice as a certified nurse anesthetist temporarily…”
    .
    There has been much controversy about non-Physicians being given the huge responsibility of anesthetizing patients. But with a critical shortage of Physician Anesthesiologists compared to the rapidly increasing number of surgeries performed in premises other than traditional hospitals, the need has resulted in the use of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) in many instances. And they are all very competent in what they do. But like Nurse Practitioners (NPs), and Physician Assistants (PAs), their training is not as thorough as that of Physicians. So when something goes wrong, they may be less equipped to handle the resulting emergency.
    .
    In this particularly sad case, if the story is accurate, the “something” that went wrong may well be negligence on the part of someone supposedly tending to the patient. But generally, the physician is ultimately responsible and it is their license that is on the line.

  2. Tough roads ahead for this family.Prayers.

    Please do not pass any judgment-for this one time-there are many many without issue.
    If you can see any lessons or want to make a positive difference figure out whose ear needs a big bug in it and. Be constructive, be polite, explain changes necessary, but never ever go away. FIND MORE CASES. These cases requiring HOSPITAL SERVICES should only be done IN THE HOSPITAL. READY SET GOOOOOOOGLE CHANGE THOSE LAWS.

  3. I am not passing judgement but the question begs an answer, Why does a teenager need a breast augmentation?
    Plus, medical personnel are human and they make mistakes. We all take that chance we will not wake up when going under general anesthesia. There is no denying this. In this case is was pure negligence on the part of the hospital and the personnel monitoring the patient.
    My heart goes out to the family as this should not happen to any parent of a beautiful daughter who has so much life ahead of her.
    My prayers go out to her family and friends.

    1. Prayers to the family. But I agree with Phillip, 18 is a little young for elective surgery. I thought we lived in an age of body proud.

  4. Listening to Rex Meeker on this recording does not sound like he is competent with anything. I mean just listen to this guy. I wouldn`t trust him to put air in my tires! Another news source is reporting he was involved in another similar incident and was setled out of court.

    1. For him to have become a CRNA, he must be competent in many things. But you’re correct, if this is the second time for a similar incident, then his overall competence in this profession must be questioned.

  5. I think there should be how the health care in Colorado Springs is not what it jshould be . I know many people that go to Denver because of the lack of good Doctors . I was sent to an Infection Disease doctor in Colorado Springs because I had a black spot on my spine the Doctor told me I looked to healthy to have a infection in my spine so I lived with the pain for a year as the infection was eating at my disc in my back . At a wellness center I go to told me I needed to go to Denver to a spine specialist and I had an infection that took to Pic lines to cure .my sister was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in the Springs they made a hole in her Breast for a biopsy sent her to a breast cancer doctor in Colorado Springs but we decided to get a second opinion at Anshultz medical center in Denver everyone there said she did not have breast cancer and it’s been 8 years and she is fine . I went to an emergency care place in the weekend because I had strep throat and they tried to tak the wax out of my ear and they busted my ear drum . I can go on about me and people I know . Go to Denver better Doctors . You know what is sad is I can’t find a lawyer that will take me case for my spine . The Spine specialist in Denver said you need to get the infectious disease doctors license pulled . Go to Denver always get a second opinion

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