Local News

Raleigh Woman Claims Operating Rooms Can Be Hidden Dangers

Posted June 9, 2003

— A Raleigh woman went in for a simple surgery, but something went terribly wrong and nearly killed her. Now, she wants everyone to know operating room fires, like the one that burned a baby last week at Duke Hospital, are a hidden danger.

When Joan Faulkner went to Franklin Regional Medical Center in Louisburg last June for an outpatient biopsy, the mother of five thought she would be back home with her kids for dinner. But in a split second, her minor surgery turned into a major disaster.

"Here I thought of myself as being pretty before, and now I get stared at by people. It's embarrassing. It's depressing," she said.

During Faulkner's surgery, she received concentrated oxygen to help her breathe, but Faulkner's husband, John, who is also a doctor himself, said that oxygen combined with an electric cauterizer, sparked a fire on cleansing solution applied to her skin for the surgery. The second- and third-degree burns covering her face, neck and chest nearly killed her.

Last week, a newborn was also injured when a fire erupted during a medical procedure at Duke Hospital.

"What happened to Joan is one fire too many. What happened at Duke is another fire," he said. "These fires continue to happen and they are preventable."

The Faulkners said they plan to sue Franklin Regional Medical Center. A hospital spokeswoman said she cannot comment on the case because this is an ongoing investigation, but she said the hospital stands by its latest safety rating, in which it scored a 96 out of 100.

The Faulkners said the hospital promised to release the results of an independent investigation on last June's incident. John Faulkner said those results would protect other patients.

"Could this information about operating room fires and what happened at Franklin Regional? Could it have possibly prevented what happened recently at Duke? Maybe," he said.

For Joan Faulkner, she said the damage is done.

"I'm never going to be the same. They've told me, you're scarred for life," she said.

Joan Faulkner still deals with pain and fatigue, a full year after being burned. She says she will have to undergo several reconstructive surgeries, which will cost up to $50,000.

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