By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“When he examined Juan’s eyes, that’s when he seemed the most alarmed,” she says. “He told us Juan’s vision was affected.” The doctor warned — according to Sostenes and Soto — that the damage might not be reversible.
They would operate immediately, the doctor told the family. The surgery was performed right in the ER. Soto describes how the Harbor docs drilled two holes into the right side of Ponce’s skull and inserted the siphon, then the ventricular catheter.
Within 20 minutes his pain had lessened, and in two hours it was gone altogether.
What did not come backwas Ponce’s vision, and his doctor again told him the damage might be permanent — a disaster for a truck driver.
The doctor’s — and the family’s — fears did not come to pass. Within a week, Ponce’s vision was nearly normal. His tumor was determined to be non-malignant.
Now, he hopes to be back at work by the end of May.
The Weekly made repeated calls to MLK and the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, and talked to several officials who were permitted only to release this statement: “The hospital and the department have fully reviewed the clinical facts of the case and determined that the care provided at MLK-Harbor Hospital was appropriate and consistent with a non emergency.”
In other words, MLK’s treatment of Ponce was just fine because he was never in danger.
Given the scenario described by the family and Soto and indicated from the hospital’s own paperwork, serious questions remain about the behavior of the MLK staff. Moreover, the Weekly has learned, an eerily similar case occurred in the fall of 2004.
A 19-year-old girl, Nicole Davis, complained of severe headaches and disruption to her vision, and King/Drew hospital staff diagnosed her case as a non-emergency. She grew worse, and eventually an ophthalmologist diagnosed a brain tumor that was creating a buildup of pressure.
But where Juan Ponce was lucky, Nicole Davis was not. By the time she got surgery, Davis was irreversibly blind in both eyes.
Los Angeles County Department of Health Services officials admitted to fault — at least with their checkbook: On January 16, 2007, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed to settle Davis’ lawsuit for $1.8 million.
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