Angelica lived in service of others. Before her health began to deteriorate, she was a job coach for people with disabilities. Before that, she was a journalist for a local paper, covering and promoting local businesses. She grew up in Manila, Philippines, and was a journalist there before moving to the United States. She was spiritual and practiced Buddhism.
After years of kidney and vascular issues, Angelica had developed respiratory difficulties that landed her in the hospital several times a year. Her husband David retired with the intent of helping to take care of her. They signed her up for physical therapy classes. Her health began to improve, and she was making fewer trips to the hospital. They were optimistic.
Despite her improvement, a flare of trouble breathing brought her back to the emergency room. She was given a standard IV and received the treatment she usually did. But when her arm ballooned alarmingly, it was determined that she had a major infection.
Angelica was taken into emergency surgery to have the infection removed. The surgery seemed to have worked and symptoms of infection ceased. However, she was left with an open wound and a disfigured arm. The infection had reached a nerve, causing permanent damage that made her unable to use her hand.
A nurse admitted to Angelica and David that the IV had been placed incorrectly, into subcutaneous tissue instead of a vein, causing the infection. Soon after, Angelica began showing symptoms again and was brought in for a second surgery. The prolonged infection and recovery kept her in the hospital for months. Meanwhile, David noticed that Angelica’s wedding ring was missing. It was removed for surgery and had since disappeared. David told the hospital, and a search was conducted, but the ring was never found. The hospital did not offer to help recover the cost.
When Angelica was finally almost ready to be discharged and recover at home, her doctor determined she should have her gall bladder removed.
Gall bladder removal is a common procedure, but David had reservations about Angelica undergoing another surgery so soon. A surgical tech himself, he had observed and assisted in gall bladder surgeries countless times before. He knew they were only urgent in emergency situations, and he recalls that Angelica was not showing emergency symptoms. She was in a weakened state due to the recent infection and other complications, but the gall bladder removal was not critical. Her doctor should have done everything possible to promote her recovery before attempting another procedure.
Angelica went into the third surgery and did not survive. David believes her doctors should have recognized that her body would not be able to handle it so soon.
If it were not for the months-long, preventable infection, she would have gotten through the gall bladder removal and would be alive today. And if her doctor had not rushed the final surgery, she would have had a chance to heal.
In search of justice for his wife of sixteen years, David spoke with multiple lawyers. They told him he had a potential case, but none would take it. That’s when he learned about California’s outdated $250,000 cap on damages in medical malpractice cases. The cap, set in 1975 and never adjusted for inflation, makes cases like his unaffordable.
Despite his loss of companionship, and continual medical bills for the treatment that failed Angelica, David cannot get accountability or compensation for what happened. The lost wedding ring adds insult to injury. David is determined to help change the 46-year-old law in Angelica’s memory. He doesn’t want to see other families lose their loved ones and have no recourse, like he did.