Bernice Gomez went in for surgery last November for an operation that was supposed to remove a cancerous tumor from her left adrenal gland, near her kidneys.
But nearly a year later, the 63-year-old Alvarado woman is still “sick every day,” she said, and her cancer prognosis remains uncertain.
Instead of removing the tumor, Dallas surgeon Sujeet Acharya removed about 40 percent of her pancreas, according to a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by Gomez last week.
“This is not a circumstance where the surgeon accidentally nicked the pancreas,” said Gomez’s Fort Worth attorney, John Hart. “That is not what happened. It wasn’t a slight mistake. He went in and took out half of the pancreas. And the pancreas is terribly important.”
Acharya — the chief of urology at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, where the surgery was performed — and his employer, Texas Oncology, are named in the lawsuit, which seeks more than $1 million in damages.
A spokeswoman for Texas Oncology did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Acharya could not be reached for comment.
The surgery, which happened several months after Gomez was diagnosed with neuroendocrine carcinoma, caused a slew of problems, according to the lawsuit.
In the days that followed, fluids from her pancreas leaked into her abdomen, forcing a second surgery by a different doctor, she said. The fluids have been a constant problem. In total, she has undergone 27 operations to drain her pancreas.
“The pain is just like somebody continually stabbing you,” Gomez said.
The overall damage to the organ, which plays a key role in controlling blood sugar levels, also led to type I diabetes, Hart said.
None of these issues was addressed by Acharya after the surgery, the lawsuit said. In fact, Acharya told Gomez’s family that “while the surgery took longer than expected, it was successful and the adrenal gland and tumor were completely removed and that she was cancer free,” the lawsuit said.
“You would have thought it was the perfect surgery,” Hart said.
As for her cancer, tumors are still on Gomez’s right and left adrenal glands.
“I don’t know where the cancer stands right now and it’s been almost a year,” Gomez said. “I know it has to come out. They’re trying to prolong it six months until I can heal a little more. I’m scared to death what they’re going to find.”
Acharya used a DaVinci Robotic System to perform the surgery. It does not appear that the robot malfunctioned, Hart said.
“You think of a doctor as God and that he’s going to fix everything,” Gomez said. “And he did the reverse.”