plastic surgery

Another Patient Comes Forward After Plastic Surgery Nightmare

A woman developed a post-surgery infection so severe, she had to be admitted to the hospital for nine days. Her son was shocked by what he witnessed.

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Tracy Carter says her plastic surgery went horribly wrong, and she soon learned she wasn't alone.

The NBC 4 I-Team has learned that despite multiple complaints now detailed against her plastic surgeon, he continues to practice.

"If something like this could happen to me it, could happen to anybody," said Carter, who's a registered nurse.

When she decided she wanted to treat herself to a tummy tuck, she did her research.

"I looked at the medical board, I read the reviews online," she explained. "I looked him up, I didn't see anything." But she says that surgery performed by Dr. Max Lehfeldt of Pasadena forever changed her life, and not in the way she'd imagined.

"Day 1, I got home and bled through all my dressings, and it really went downhill from there. Over the course of eight weeks I became very sick."

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21191718-medical-board-ca-third-amended-accusation

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As an obstetric nurse, she knew what to expect with surgery, but she believes the repeated use of the same antibiotic during her recovery led her on a downward spiral. She developed an infection so severe she had to be admitted to the hospital for nine days. Her son Ryan was shocked by what he witnessed.

"Every single doctor and nurse that came into the room had their mouth hit the floor when they saw what she looked like," said Ryan Stewart.

He was shocked by what he watched his mother endure.

"I'd never head of another story where a person's belly button falls out, or where a person would have to be at home with tweezers digging inside of their insides," said Stewart.

"It was like a bomb went off in me. I have pain every day," said Carter. "I don't think I'll be the same inside; it always hurts."

She soon learned she was not alone when she saw this NBC-4 I-Team report on Wendy Knecht, also a patient of Dr. Lehfeldt. Knecht filed a lawsuit against him for fraud and malpractice after complications from breast reconstruction following her double mastectomy. Lehfeldt settled without admitting guilt for $1,000,000.

Knecht became "Patient A" in an accusation by the director of the Medical Board {see attachment} against Lehfedlt. It stems from a complaint she first made in 2016, which the board initially dismissed.

Knecht's persistence led to its reopening, and eventually three more patients were added to the accusation, including Carter, who is "Patient D."

The accusation cites Lehfeldt's failure to obtain a culture of Carter's wound, repeated use of the same antibiotic, and failure to document patient consent, all "a departure from the standard of care."

The accusation also notes "repeated negligent acts in the care and treatment of Patient A, Patient B, Patient C and Patient D" making Lehfedlt's license "subject to discipline."

Carter says the hardest part of this ordeal is knowing Lehfeldt is still practicing.

in fact, he was supposed to attend a hearing in January to address this accusation before the full board. but he asked for an extension, which the Medical Board has granted until June 2022.

We asked Dr. Lehfeldt for an interview about Carter's allegations and the accusation by the Medical Board director, but he did not respond to our emails or telephone message.

The Medical Board does not comment on ongoing investigations, but its own published reports indicate only about 10 percent of complaints are investigated, and those investigations take on average three years.

Carter says the experience was so traumatic, she feared for her life. She says she is a different person today. What was supposed to be a five-week recovery stretched to seven months, and persistent pain prevents her from returning to work in the operating room. She says the trauma of what she endured from three additional surgeries and her now-chronic pain has changed her forever.

"My mama is one of the strongest people I've ever met, and this broke her," said Stewart.

Patient advocates say Carter's story is all too common. They've complained that Medical Board investigations favor doctors and take far too long to complete, potentially putting other patients at risk. The board maintains it must meet a high burden of proof when it comes to punishing doctors or revoking licenses, but earlier this month the board asked state lawmakers to change those requirements.

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