Imagine that you have end-stage renal disease and that you need a new kidney in order to survive. Imagine that a perfect match has been found for you—a kidney from your younger brother. Imagine that you and your brother are admitted to the University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC) for kidney transplant operations. Imagine waking up after surgery and discovering that your brother’s kidney was removed from his body but not transplanted into yours.
All this actually happened in August of 2012 to a twenty-four-year-old woman named Sarah Fudacz. Fudacz said that she knew something had gone wrong as soon as she was being led out of surgery. “I lifted up my shirt and there was no incision.” She and her brother found out later that a nurse had mistakenly thrown away her brother Paul’s healthy kidney thinking that it was medical waste.
“Somebody wasted part of my brother,” Sarah Fudacz said. “I thought this was going to be the end of it and I’d finally start feeling better. I remember just asking over and over again, what happened?”
From the New York Daily News:
The bungle happened when circulating nurse Melanie Lemay, who was covering for part-time nurse Judith K. Moore during her lunch break, failed to properly update Moore on the status of the surgery after she returned from her break, according to hospital disciplinary records obtained by the Toledo Blade. Moore then unknowingly discarded the kidney along with other contents of the slush machine. The kidney was recovered but was unusable.
The Toledo Blade reported that Ms. Moore, a part-time nurse, resigned last September and Ms. LeMay, a full-time registered nurse, was fired by UTMC. Susan Donaldson James of Good Morning America also reported that the medical center’s administrator of surgical services was placed on paid administrative leave. UTMC’s live-donor program was temporarily suspended after a state investigation. According to a complaint that was filed in the Ohio Court of Claims in early August, “Lemay is now suing the hospital for wrongful discharge, defamation, slander and libel.”
Fortunately, UTMC eventually arranged for Sarah Fudacz to receive another kidney. The medical center also paid for her transportation to Colorado for her transplant operation in Denver last November. But the Fudacz family alleges in a lawsuit that, in the months between the disaster at UTMC and Sarah’s successful surgery in Denver, Sarah “suffered through painful dialysis, four painful surgeries … and was forced to live through the uncertainty of whether she would ever find a kidney suitable for transplant before dying.”
“Paul Jr.’s kidney was considered a ‘perfect match’ for Sarah. Sarah seeks damages she has suffered and will continue to suffer due to the loss of Paul Jr.’s perfect kidney. Paul Jr. seeks damages he has suffered and will continue to suffer for having to undergo a painful and risky surgery, and for having to live the rest of his life with only one kidney, all in vain,” the suit reads. (Toledo Blade)
Although the medical center admits that a nurse threw away Paul Fudacz’s kidney before it could be transplanted into his sister, it has denied—in court papers— that it was medically negligent.
James E. Arnold, the Fudacz family’s lawyer, told ABC News, “They are admitting they threw the kidney away, but they are not admitting substandard medical care.” He said, “They must think that it is within standard care to throw a kidney away.” He added, “It would be more decent to admit substandard care, and the family shouldn’t have to be going through litigation to prove it. It’s obvious to everyone but the university — in all fairness.”
The hospital filed to dismiss the loss of consortium claims, but not the medical negligence, according to the Toledo Blade. A university representative told the paper he did not know how much the school had compensated the family thus far.
Ohio Transplant Victim Says Hospital ‘Wasted’ Brother’s Kidney (Good Morning America)
Kidney for Ohio Transplant Thrown in Trash (ABC News)
Ohio woman sues Toledo hospital for throwing out kidney her brother donated to her: Sarah Fudacz, then 24, was awaiting a ‘perfect match’ kidney from younger brother Paul when a nurse mistakenly disposed of the organ. (New York Daily News)
Family involved in botched kidney transplant sues UTMC (Toledo News Now)