HUNTINGTON – A Huntington woman has filed a federal complaint against the United States, claiming her husband died of cardiac arrest and renal failure due to the negligence of doctors at the Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center.

Christi Arthur says Dr. John T. Walker, with the help of Dr. Stephen S. King, performed a laparoscopic cholecystectomy on her husband, Gary L. Arthur, on Aug. 7, 2007.

After the procedure and while in the post anesthesia care unit, Gary Arthur began experiencing severe abdominal pain, according to the complaint filed Feb. 24 in federal court.

The pain was so bad, Gary Arthur "reported his pain as 9 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst possible pain," the suit states.

More than 30 minutes after Gary Arthur reported the pain, doctors gave him 1 milligram of IV Morphine at five-minute intervals. They administered a total of six milligrams of Morphine before discharging him, according to court documents.

From the PACU, Gary Arthur was admitted to the VA Medical Center Intensive Care Unit on Aug. 7, 2007, and was given four additional milligrams of Morphine there, Christi Arthur alleges.

The following day, King and surgeon Svetlana Yudina examined Gary Arthur. Both noted a distended abdomen. Nevertheless, Gary Arthur was discharged on Aug. 8, 2007, with instructions to follow up in one week with Walker, according to the complaint.

Before his follow-up appointment, though, Gary Arthur went to the VA Medical Center Emergency Department shortly before midnight on Aug. 13, 2007, complaining of nausea and pain in his left abdomen. This time he rated his pain as 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, the suit states.

On Aug. 14, 2007, a hepatobiliary gallbladder scan revealed Gary Arthur was suffering from a "very large" bile leak, according to court documents.

"On August 14, 2007, a PT level at 0150 hours was 109.8, with a normal range 12. 4 to 14.7 seconds," the suit states. "A CT scan of Mr. Arthur's abdomen and pelvis was also performed on August 14, 2007 at the VA Medical Center that revealed a large subcapular fluid collection around the liver and fluid within the pelvis."

Dr. John Morgenstern attempted to perform an ERCP on Aug. 15, 2007, but couldn't because it was not possible for Gary Arthur to lie in the position due to an injury of his left arm, Christi Arthur says.

Later, a VA nurse reported Gary Arthur's heart rate to be elevated to more than 165 beat per minute and his skin appearance to be yellow, moist and warm. He was suffering from mild respiratory distress and had decreased breath sounds and an expiratory wheeze, according to the complaint.

At the recommendation of VA Medical Center employees, Gary Arthur was transported to Cabell Huntington Hospital on Aug. 16, 2007, for percutaneous drainage of the biloma.

During the procedure, at least 2,000 ccs of bile was removed from Gary Arthur. He was then transferred back to the VA Medical Center, the suit states.

Still, Gary Arthur's condition continued to deteriorate. On Aug. 19, 2007, a portable x-ray examination of his abdomen revealed gaseous distention of loops of the large and small bowel, according to court records.

The following day, Gary Arthur had a temperature of 106 degrees and decreased blood pressure. Doctors obtained consent from Christi Arthur to perform an expioratory laparotomy of the abdomen on Gary Arthur.

"At the time of the surgical procedure on August 21, 2007, Gary Arthur was an ASA Class VE, being a moribund patient who was not expected to survive with or without the operative procedure," the suit states.

On Aug. 21, 2007, at about 3:50 p.m., Gary Arthur died of cardiac arrest caused by septic shock, renal failure and biliary peritonitis secondary to a bile leak.

Because of her husband's death, Christi Arthur says she incurred medical, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages, lost household services, suffered bereavement and sorrow and lost Gary Arthur's companionship and kindly services.

Both she and his beneficiaries have suffered the loss of Gary Arthur's comfort, society, services and support, according to the complaint.

Employees at the VA Medical Center were negligent by discharging Gary L. Arthur on Aug. 8, 2007, by failing to appropriately monitor his condition on Aug. 7, 2007, and by failing to recognize and repair the source of his bile leak on Aug. 7, 2007, Christi Arthur alleges.

Christi Arthur is seeking unspecified actual damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, costs and other relief to which she may be entitled.

She will be represented by William L. Mundy and Debra A. Nelson of Mundy and Nelson in Huntington.

U.S. Federal Court case number: 3:09-0171

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