Monday, June 1, 2020
June 1, 2020

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Eye surgeon’s error confounds boy’s parents

She mistakenly operated on the wrong one; lawsuit being mulled

By , Columbian Health Reporter
Published:
4 Photos
Jesse Matlock, 4, sits with his mother, Tasha Gaul, at their Vancouver home Tuesday. Jesse had surgery last week to correct his wandering right eye. The surgeon mistakenly operated on Jesse's left eye.
Jesse Matlock, 4, sits with his mother, Tasha Gaul, at their Vancouver home Tuesday. Jesse had surgery last week to correct his wandering right eye. The surgeon mistakenly operated on Jesse's left eye. Then, when she realized her mistake, operated on the right eye. Photo Gallery

Four-year-old Jesse Matlock entered a Portland hospital last Wednesday for surgery to correct his wandering right eye.

But the surgeon mistakenly operated on the left eye. Then, once she realized her mistake, she performed the operation on the right eye.

The ordeal left the Vancouver boy with two sore, bloodshot eyes and his parents searching for answers.

“It just blows me away,” Jesse’s dad, Dale Matlock, said. “I can’t comprehend what happened in that operating room.”

The procedure was supposed to be simple.

The surgeon, Dr. Shawn Goodman, would cut some of the muscle tissue below Jesse’s right eye. The muscles above the boy’s right eye were stronger than the lower muscles, causing the eye to wander, said Tasha Gaul, Jesse’s mom.

Jesse’s parents watched as Goodman made a mark above Jesse’s right eye. Then he was wheeled into the operating room at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center for what was supposed to be a low-risk procedure, his parents said.

But while Jesse was still in surgery, a nurse came to the waiting room and told Matlock the surgeon was going to operate on both eyes. She didn’t offer any further explanation, Matlock said.

Goodman explained the mistake to Jesse’s parents after she was done operating.

“She said, ‘Frankly, I was at the head of him, and I lost my sense of direction and the mark got covered up,’” Gaul said of Goodman. “By the time she realized it was the left eye, it was all said and done.”

Jesse’s parents were stunned.

“I just started crying,” Gaul said. “You hear something like this happens and your world starts spinning.”

“This is a medical mishap that is never supposed to happen,” Matlock added. “Something had to happen with their procedure.”

But Legacy officials said operating staff followed the hospital’s procedures.

“All of the procedures were followed,” said Brian Terrett, director of public and community relations for Legacy. “What we’re trying to determine is where there was a breakdown.”

A critical incident debriefing team will review every step of the operation and interview everyone involved in the case to determine how the mistake happened, Terrett said.

Goodman is not a Legacy employee but she has privileges to use the hospital’s operating facilities, Terrett said.

Goodman has a practice in Lake Oswego called Child Eye Care Associates. An employee at her practice responded to The Columbian’s request for comment.

“Dr. Goodman wants only the best for our patients, and due to patient confidentiality and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) laws we cannot talk about any patient to the public,” the employee said.

Jesse saw a doctor at Oregon Health & Science University on Tuesday for a post-operation evaluation. The doctor told Jesse’s parents it’s too early to tell what, if any, long-term effects the surgeries will have on the boy’s eyes.

Gaul said the surgery hasn’t helped to correct Jesse’s wandering right eye. In addition, it appears as though the unnecessary surgery on his left eye has caused it to wander slightly, she added.

Jesse will return to the doctor in five weeks, at which time his eyes should be healed. His parents hope doctors will be able to offer a clearer prognosis then.

“Unfortunately, we have to wait another five weeks to find out if our son’s OK,” Matlock said.

Matlock has hired an attorney and said he is considering a malpractice suit.

Legacy officials will review the findings of its investigation into the incident and determine whether it rises to the level of taking action, Terrett said.

And for now, Matlock and Gaul have to wait and see whether their son will need additional surgeries to repair the mistake.

“I’m completely in the dark about what’s going to happen with his vision in the future,” Gaul said. “All I can do is put it in God’s hands and hope for the best.”

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