George Smith

My Dad’s name is George Smith.  He was 79 years old when he passed away.  He worked every day up until he entered the hospital for his knee replacement surgery.  I am telling his story in the hopes that it saves someone else from making a grave error (whether it be a patient or a Dr.)

My Dad was approved for elective knee surgery by his Personal Care Physician (PCP) and internal medicine specialist, on January 13, 2009.  Little did we know at the time, it would be the beginning of the end for my Dad.
His surgeon had asked for cardiac clearance, so a couple of days before surgery, he went to his PCP.  She clinically diagnosed him as a low risk, despite the fact that a preoperative x-ray showed bibasilar patchy atelectasis or pneumonia.  (Which we were never made aware of until we received his hospital records, after his death).  His PCP literally used a stethoscope to listen to his chest and she said he clinically appeared “fine”.  You cannot “hear” pulmonary fibrosis!!!
Three days after the surgery, my Dad’s health deteriorated quickly.  They thought he had a heart attack or suffered a pulmonary embolism (blood clot from the surgery) but both were negative.  They put him on a Bi-pap mask for 2 days.  At the end of the second day, they said they had to intubate him because he was “going to wear himself out trying to breath”.   We were like “What is going on?”  Their answer was “He’s a very sick man”.  This was elective knee surgery and he had done the pre-op clearance.  “What was he sick from?”  The answer we received many times was “We just don’t know.”  To this day, we know they knew.  He should have never been cleared for surgery without further testing-even a CT scan would have showed the pulmonary fibrosis that invaded his lungs due to amiodarone pulmonary toxicity.
After being intubated for 19 days, we were then told a tracheostomy would be necessary and it would be easier to wean him from the vent.  Of course, this did not happen and after 51 horrendous days in the hospital, he was switched to comfort care and passed away in a few hours.
We were all at a loss.  How did this happen?  Why did this happen?  After pursuing the doctors with a lawsuit for 5 years, many of our questions were answered, unfortunately it was too late to save my Dad’s life.
You see 10 years before, my dad had a cardioversion for artrial fibrillation.  He was put on 200 mg. of amiodarone for “therapy”.  He was in normal sinus rhythm.  After a year, his PCP assumed the responsibility for the amiodarone.  After 2 more years, she reduced it to 100 mg.  No baseline was ever done by the Dr. and in all this time a CT scan of his lungs was never performed.  Around 2004 his thyroid quit functioning entirely.  She did a liver screen and some thyroid testing-that was it.  Around 2007 my Dad developed a chronic dry cough, lightheadedness and shortness of breath.  She told him it was allergies.  She put him on antibiotic after antibiotic on and off for the next two years.  He told her “Nothing seems to be working”.  In all this time never once did she order a pulmonary function test or a CT of his chest.  He also complained of having no energy, constipation, and loss of appetite (nothing tasted good), yet his weight never went down.  In the hospital, one of the doctors asked “how long has he had neuropathy in his feet?”  We were like “He doesn’t and has never been diagnosed or treated for it.”  Three days before my Dad died, a hopitalist came in and said “It’s possible he has what we call amiodarone lung.  We’re just not sure.”  That is when I started y research and that is when I knew my Dad would NEVER be coming home.  All just because he wanted a new knee and had a Dr. that did not follow the guidelines for amiodarone.
My Dad’s autopsy stated that he had severe emphysema (which he had never been treated for) severe pulmonary fibrosis and left lower lobe pneumonia.  Under the clinicopathologic correlation in the autopsy, it stated “Mr. Smith had a prolonged hospital course.  During the hospitalization, his course included Acute Respiratory Distress possibly due to COPD (which he had never been diagnosed or treated for), interstitial pulmonary fibrosis/amiodarone lung, pneumonia which lead to reparatory failure.
My Dad’s chest x-rays showed interstitial diffuse opacities. This is way different than pneumonia.  His CT scans also showed ground glass opacities.  This is consistent with amiodarone toxicity.
We all feel that my Dad would still be here if his Dr. had followed the guidelines associated amiodarone.  We just did not know that he was taking a deadly drug.  My Dad was active and took care of himself.  It is so important to read up on the medicines that you are taking. If anyone of us had known and researched amiodarone, we would probably have realized some of the symptoms beforehand or the severe damage it can cause.  But we trusted his doctors.
My Dad was a wonderful man who so did not deserve to die the way he did.  This is a drug of last resort and as anyone can tell, if you’re on it for 10 years “for therapy” it is NOT LAST RESORT…especially since there is nothing in any of his medical records that ever stated he was still in a-fib.
Our hearts ache and there is not a day that goes by that my Mom, his kids, and grandkids do not miss him.  It was such a senseless, cruel death.

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