Man says negligence resulted in son's amputation - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Man says negligence resulted in son's amputation

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - A settlement to give a family of a 5-year-old boy $300,000 because his leg had to be amputated due to negligence at the hospital evidently was the trigger that led to the governor's decision to remove the agency's entire leadership team. KUAM News spoke with the young boy's father and profiled the record of his attending physician, Dr. Glenn Cunningham.

July 21, 2008 turned out to be a horrific day for a Kentucky family who returned to Guam for a vacation. The negligent actions of an orthopedic surgeon licensed to practice medicine in the territory have forever changed this child's life, but apparently it's not the first time the doctor has been accused of being careless with his patients.

Logan Fain now has a constant reminder of his family vacation to Guam in 2008.  His father Jeff says the family lived on Guam between 1998 and 2002 and decided to come back and visit the place they fell in love with for two weeks in the summer of 2008. Halfway through the vacation, Logan - who was 5 at the time - broke his leg.

"He was on a waterslide and a larger child came down from behind him," Jeff recalled. "[The child] weighed about 200 pounds and pinned him against the edge of the little pool at the bottom and broke his leg."

Logan was taken to the Guam Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for a broken femur. Two days later, he underwent surgery performed by Dr. Cunningham. But when the surgery was done, Jeff heard his son screaming from the recovery room. "I said, 'I want Dr. Cunningham in here, something's not right.' I mean, he's just fresh out of surgery. He's got a cast on his leg and his toes are black and blue."

He says Cunningham returned and said the reaction was normal and that Logan's leg would recover. But Jeff's concerns only grew worse.

"He said, 'Hey, you're not a doctor and you don't know what you're talking about,' so I squeezed his toe and I said, 'Look, there's no blood coming back in, it just goes black, white and his toes are very cold and he doesn't feel any pain in there.' He said, 'You don't know what you're talking about. I am a doctor. I know what I'm talking about. He's going to be okay,'" detailed Jeff.

But the father says things only got worse - the next day Logan's toes had turned black and showed no signs of improving. Dr. Cunningham then cut the front of the cast, hoping to relieve some pressure. That same day they were discharged and the family returned to the mainland and took Logan to the All Children's Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"When he pinned my son's two bones together, he caught the femoral artery and he cut all the circulation off and the doctors told us within twelve hours of the surgery his leg was already dead," Jeff said.

Eight days after it was broken, doctors amputated Logan's leg.

The Government of Guam agreed to pay a $300,000 settlement to the Fains for what governor's legal counsel James Canto said was the physician's alleged premature discharge of the child, but Jeff says the settlement is for Cunningham's negligence. "We hope no other person, no other Chamorro, no Asian, no Korean, no white person, no person on Guam ever has to be treated by him again," he stated. "That's our hope."

KUAM News has learned that this isn't the first time allegations of negligence have been made against Dr. Cunningham. In fact, according to the Medical Board of California, the orthopedic surgeon's medical license in that state was revoked because of repeated negligence after Cunningham performed hip surgery on an 87-year-old woman who died several months later because of complications from a massive infection that the physician failed to identify.

An order from the Division of Medical Quality, Medical Board of California found that "Respondent's management and care of Virginia T. constituted repeated negligent acts when he failed to recognize a post operative deep wound infection, he failed to proceed with an appropriate course of treatment, he incorrectly diagnosed the condition of the hip fracture and he recommended a form of surgery without knowing if the patient had an infection."

The revocation of his license was stayed and instead the Board chose to place him on probation for three years ordering him to take additional educational courses and clinical training programs dealing with infections. His license was restored in March 2002, but his license has since become delinquent for non-renewal.

A neutral third-party arbitrator - specifically the Riverside County Superior Court in California - issued a $75,000 judgment against Cunningham in July 1999, but the court documents were not available. The record also shows that the Iowa State Board of Medical Examiners took administrative action against the surgeon, citing him based on the discipline that was taken by the State of California.

KUAM News attempted to contact Cunningham for comment, but our calls went unreturned. 

Meanwhile, we also tried to get more information on Cunningham's background from the Guam Board of Medical Examiners - the very entity that gives licenses to physicians who want to practice on Guam. We were told we had to submit an official request in writing that the board would not review until their meeting scheduled for March 13.

It's also worthy of note that if you want to find out if your doctor's ever been disciplined - unlike in the mainland where most state medical licensure boards have web sites that allow people to look up the names of their physicians - Guam doesn't have such access. You can, however, make a request to the Guam Board of Medical Examiners, and they make the decision on whether to release the information.

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