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IOWA CITY — A Le Claire mother is suing the state, accusing University of Iowa physicians of perforating her bowel and charring her rectum during a surgical procedure — leaving her permanently impaired and unable to care for her two sons to the same degree she was pre-surgery.
Tiffany Lunsford filed a tort claim for $6 million with the State Appeal Board in March 2022 but officially withdrew it this month after filing a lawsuit Dec. 27, alleging medical negligence with sweeping consequences.
“To date, Lunsford continues to deal with PTSD, scarring, pain, and gastrointestinal dysfunction as a result of her bowel perforation,” according to the lawsuit filed in Johnson County District Court.
The issue started in 2020 when Lunsford was scheduled for a hysterectomy, ovarian cystectomy, lymph node dissection, and other procedures in response to a cervical cancer diagnosis. A UIHC surgeon — assisted by a resident and a fellow — on March 11, 2020, operated on Lunsford, who was discharged the following day.
Three days later, her husband called UIHC to report significant swelling, and a physician made a few suggestions “to see if that provided relief,” according to the lawsuit. After two more phone calls, Lunsford came back to the university with worsening abdominal pain, discharge, and constipation.
A CT scan showed evidence of a bowel perforation — or a hole in the intestinal tract — and Lunsford reported in her lawsuit she was admitted for an exploratory surgery that involved an abdominal washout, among other things.
The surgeon who performed that procedure told Lunsford post-operation “that her rectum was so charred that he was unable to evaluate exactly where the perforation was, and that it appeared as if the cautery tool was left on the rectum for too long.”
While in the hospital, according to the lawsuit, Lunsford said her first surgeon called and said, “This is the worst thing a surgeon can hear … I am so sorry.”
She was discharged March 21, 2020, and three months later requested a “colostomy takedown,” essentially reversing the procedure, due to ongoing pain and other issues. She went in for the reversal July 22, 2020, and left the hospital July 25.
In her lawsuit, Lunsford accused the state — in its oversight of UIHC — of negligence for perforating her bowel; failing to realize that during the procedure or before sending her home; and failing to send her to a specialist promptly.
As a result, according to her lawsuit, her medical costs increased, her mental health suffered, and she developed permanent disabilities that have limited her earning power and her ability to care for and comfort her sons.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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