CHICAGO RIDGE, Ill. — A lawsuit filed in Cook County alleges mistakes made by a pediatric ophthalmologist during a procedure on a young woman amount to negligence and “medical battery.”
“I was so nervous and scared and just not understanding what was going on,” said Sutton Dryfhout.
Dryfhout was 19 when she underwent surgery to correct a lazy eye and remove a cyst in that same eye. The lawsuit states Dryfhout only consented to surgery on that left eye; but when the anesthesia wore off and she woke-up in the recovery room it was her right eye that was bleeding and in pain.
“There was a nurse at my bedside and I said ‘why is my right eye hurting? You weren’t supposed to touch my right eye.’ She said ‘I don’t know, let me figure that out for you,’” Dryfhout said.
The lawsuit alleges Dr. Benjamin Ticho arrived in the recovery room and told a nurse he “forgot something” and then proceeded to operate on Dryfhout’s left eye.
“Sutton was conscious, awake and in pain when Dr. Ticho operated on her left eye,” the lawsuit states. “Dr. Ticho stuck instruments, including a needle, scissors and a cautery pen, into Sutton’s left eye,” according the lawsuit.
“Someone was holding my head, holding my eye open,” Dryfhout said. “He brought a needle up from – I don’t know where – and started sticking the needle in my eye. It was burning. He brought scissors up and started cutting. I was scared. I was telling him to stop and he wasn’t stopping.”
Dryfhout’s attorney, Valerie Leopold, said she finds the procedure in the recovery room, without anesthesia, particularly troubling.
“Anytime a patient asks you to stop, especially in a non-emergency situation, not only as a lawyer but also as a parent, there’s an obligation to stop,” Leopold said.
A consent form for anesthesia only mentions a procedure on her left eye. However, Dryfhout’s mother Danise said when she was finally allowed into the recovery room after the second procedure, the doctor asked her to initial changes to a surgical consent form that had a mention of the “left” eye crossed out and the word “right” was added.
“We asked [the doctor] what happened,” Danise Dryfhout said. “As [the doctor] backed out of the room he said ‘I didn’t think she would remember.’”
After a brief phone conversation with WGN Investigates, Dr. Ticho declined to comment.
“I really would like to refute all the charges in this unfair lawsuit,” Ticho wrote in an email. “However, due to issues of patient confidentiality, my attorney has instructed me not to comment publicly.”
The lawsuit also states Ticho was not in a sterile environment when he performed that procedure in the recovery room, did not use gloves and used instruments from a prior surgical patient’s instrument tray.
The procedure occurred in August of 2017. Dryfhout says she continues to suffer from double vision and other complications. She now works as a surgical technologist assisting in medical procedures.
“My biggest hope is people will see this and it won’t happen to anyone else,” she said.