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 of Denver Trial Lawyers, 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.
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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.