SUNDAY, MAY 28, 2006
She will never make love to her husband again.
A medical procedure gone wrong has enclosed her vagina, left her with constant internal infections and forever changed her life.
This week, a Cook County jury awarded the woman who requested anonymity $5 million for medical malpractice it decided was caused by her gynecologist, Dr. Taek Kim of Downers Grove.
Given her condition since the 2000 procedure, the woman offered her husband a divorce a man she met on a blind date, just a day before he left for the Vietnam War.
She told him she’d understand if her husband of 35 years, the father of their two children, the one who sent Love Is…cartoons with all his war letters, wanted to leave her for someone else.
But love, he told her, is forever.
He said I’d rather be with you than without you, attorney Brian Hurst recalled. And then he told her I don’t ever want to hear you say that again. I mean, these are the two most in-love people I have ever seen in my life.
The couple, formerly of DuPage County and now retired out of state, continue to adjust because of the surgery.
Kim was the woman’s longtime physician and she was scheduled to have a hysterectomy.
In the months before, the 57-year-old former school teacher complained of having to urinate more than normal something Kim said was likely due to a condition known as stress urinary incontinence and, he said, something he could easily fix while conducting the hysterectomy.
But, Hurst said, the woman never had stress urinary incontinence and was never tested for it.
During her hysterectomy, Kim inserted a synthetic sling to support her urethra and help cure her sensitive bladder. But the sling became infected and began eroding in her vagina, and it was two months before Kim attempted to remove the sling.
He couldn’t and it continued to erode, causing infections and tissue to build up inside her vagina, before a specialist tried to help.
It was too late.
Bits of the sling remain inside of her, Hurst said, and because of tissue build-up and muscle spasms she lost the functional use of her vagina, Hurst said.
This has been devastating for her and her husband, well beyond the fact that they haven’t made love since May 2000 and likely never will again, said Hurst.
Kim’s attorney, Robert L. Larson, said the procedure was complicated and the medical decision-making process involves a number of factors that led the doctor to perform the procedure.
Something went wrong and it was an unfortunate outcome, Larson said. Medicine is not an exact science and sometimes outcomes are beyond anyone’s control.
Other malpractice suits
Court records show more than a dozen malpractice cases filed against Kim in Cook and DuPage counties, including a case attorney Matt Belcher said made it impossible for his client to have intercourse because of the pain after a surgery Kim performed.
State records show no action against Kim, but officials said the $5 million verdict against him will trigger a state investigation.
That verdict, and knowing the state will look into the allegations, give some hope to the couple, Hurst said.
When she talks about things in the past, you can still see the twinkle in her eye and how much fun they used to have together, Hurst said. But then, you see the misery as they talk about this and how it has just overwhelmed their lives.
Contributing: Dan Rozek
As published in The Chicago Sun-Times. Reprinted with permission.