State suspends local doctor's medical license after 18-year-old ends up in coma

Problem Solvers
Data pix.

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. -- The FOX31 Problem Solvers have discovered the medical license for a Greenwood Village plastic surgeon has been suspended following the tragic case of Emmalyn Nguyen.

The 18-year-old has been in a vegetative state since Aug. 1, 2019, when she went to the office of Colorado Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery for an elective breast augmentation procedure.

FOX31 first reported on Nguyen's condition on Dec. 18, the day her parents filed a lawsuit that names the practice, its owner Dr. Geoffrey Kim, nurse anesthetist Rex Meeker, registered nurse Shay Hubert and CRNA Associates.

The lawsuit suggests Kim and Meeker didn't properly monitor Nguyen's anesthesia levels and left her alone for 15 minutes. During that time frame, Nguyen stopped breathing, according to the lawsuit.

Healthcare providers in the office were able to restore Nguyen's heartbeat but the teenager suffered brain damage and has never regained consciousness.

The Colorado Medical Board suspended Kim's license on Jan. 9, 2020. According to Kim's Order of Suspension, the Colorado Medical Board first determined on Dec. 12 it had "reasonable grounds to believe" that Kim "was guilty of a deliberate and willful violation of the Medical Practice Act" because "Despite requests by other healthcare providers present in the operating  room, Respondent failed to contact emergency personnel to transport the patient to the hospital for nearly six hours."

In addition, the state Board of Nursing  entered into an "Interim Cessation of Practice Agreement" with Meeker that went into effect on Jan. 2, 2020. Meeker has both a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) license and a registered nurse (RN) license in Colorado. The state did not do anything to impact Meeker's RN license.

Under the voluntary agreement, Meeker can no longer administer anesthesia to patients but can still act as a nurse.  According to state documents obtained by the Problem Solvers, "As as Advanced Practice Nurse, Respondent (Meeker) has the responsibility to timely contact emergency services and refer Patient 1 (Emmalyn Nguyen) to a hospital. The Board reviewed information that anesthetic doses may have been inappropriate under the circumstances."

When Meeker finally called 911, he can be heard saying on a call obtained by FOX31, "She's not conscious. We've evaluated her. We've estimated a Glasgow score of 6 or 7."

Patients with a Glasgow score of 7 or less are considered comatose.

Attorney David Woodruff, who represents Emmalyn's parents, told FOX31, "To me, it’s beyond awful. It is unconscionable. I’ve always thought this case was a huge travesty. Now, it appears to have an element of a doctor actually consciously choosing to deny care to his patient knowing that she needs to be sent to the hospital."

"The doctor finally came back out to tell me that I wasn't able to go back there to check up on her. She's doing fine and she's young, maybe that's the reason why she's taking longer to wake up," is what Emmalyn's mother Lynn Fam remembers the doctor telling her after she had been in the waiting room for nearly five hours the day of the surgery.

On Jan. 9, the Colorado Medical Board held a pre-suspension hearing where Kim was allowed to present information. At that hearing, the panel found Kim "failed to transfer Patient 1 to higher level of care for approximately 5 hours following an asystolic arrest." As a result, the Colorado Medical Board suspended Kim's license effective at 4 p.m. on Jan. 9.

Emmalyn's father, Sonny Nguyen, previously told the FOX31 Problem Solvers, "I just want to find out the truth, what happened and prevent this from happening to other people."

His wife, Lynn Fam added, "Her body is still there but she's not there, so we feel like we lost a daughter."

The Problem Solvers called Kim's office on Tuesday. A receptionist answered the phone to say, "I’m not able to schedule any appointments. Kim will be out of the office," but she did not reveal it was because his license to practice had been suspended.

Investigative reporter Rob Low walked into the office Tuesday afternoon to ask the receptionist why the office was still open when Kim's license had been suspended, but she declined to answer any questions. There did not appear to be anyone else in the office.

Kim's attorney Kari Hershey emailed the following statement to  FOX31:

"Dr. Kim is fully cooperating with the Board’s review, which is an ongoing confidential process. Accordingly, Dr. Kim is not able to comment in the media other than to say he will continue to cooperate with the Board. This is a tragic situation for all involved. Nevertheless, Dr. Kim disputes claims brought against him in the pending litigation and will defend himself against those claims."

A phone call and email sent to Meeker's attorney on Monday has not been returned as of Tuesday. In early December, Meeker's attorney Douglas Wolankse emailed FOX31 the following statement:

"As there is potential litigation related to this case we will only comment to say that Mr. Meeker’s care was reasonable and within the standard of care and we are confident that the facts will bear this out."

Woodruff told FOX31 the five-hour delay in calling  911 may have affected Emmalyn's prognosis permanently.

"It’s very likely that she could’ve had minimal to no brain damage if she had been properly treated," Woodruff said.

Most Read

Top Stories

More Home Page Top Stories