The family of an 84-year-old New York woman has filed a lawsuit against the hospital that treated her after her family says she swallowed four false teeth, accusing doctors of failing to find and treat the source of her ailment, which they claim led to a snowball of health complications that have dramatically affected her quality of life.
Manhasset resident Chong Nan Woo called her son, David Lee, in September 2017 after she swallowed a portion of her dentures that came loose as she was taking medication, he told ABC News. She then called 911 and was transported to the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, where doctors could not immediately find where the teeth had gone after performing a CAT scan, Lee said.
As Woo complained about a pain in her throat, doctors inserted a feeding tube, but placed it down the wrong pipe, causing a perforation in the esophagus, the family's attorney, Christine Coscia, told ABC News.
Lee began to worry days later as his mother's temperature began to spike. He later learned that during the 10-day period in which he says doctors still hadn't found the teeth, every time Woo swallowed -- food, water or even saliva -- toxic water pockets were exiting her esophagus and surrounding her lungs and heart, which eventually led to osteomyelitis -- or a bone infection -- in her neck bone, Lee said.
The doctors finally found the teeth when they went to perform a procedure to drain the water pockets, and Woo later required spinal surgery for her neck, Coscia said. After the surgery, she was intubated for breathing, which eventually paralyzed one of her vocal chords.
Woo's hospital stay amounted to about four months, Lee said.
The myriad of health complications transformed Woo from a "very active," passionate grandmother who was involved with her church and community, Lee said, into a bedridden woman who requires 24-hour medical care in an assisted living facility. She hasn't been able to eat and drink on her own or even speak for about two years, he said.
Lee said he has observed his mother's energy and spirit getting progressively "weaker and weaker."
"I feel so sorry about it, especially since my mom was my inspiration," Lee said. "I really hope she could not lose in her own passion to survive and recover," he said.
The hospital, doctors and physician assistants allegedly involved in Woo's treatment are named in the lawsuit filed in Queens County this week, which alleges that they "breached their obligation to render appropriate medical and surgical care and treatment" and that they "negligently and carelessly failed to discover and treat swallowed teeth."
Coscia said that had the doctors initially found the teeth, the other complications would not have occurred.
"Had they found the teeth on the scan, had they seen where it was and knew where they were immediately, they would have been able to remove them and everything else wouldn't have occurred," Coscia said.
It is unclear whether Woo will make a full recovery, although Lee said he hopes that she will.
A spokesman for the Long Island Jewish Medical Center said he could not comment on the case at this time.