A little boy’s botched heart surgery leads to permanent brain damage.

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Angel Villalobos was born with just one heart ventricle instead of the usual two. A series of operations early in life should have fixed the problem and left him with a normal life. But during the third operation, when Angel was five, the surgeon cut through Angel’s breastbone using the location of an earlier incision and cut Angel’s aorta with an oscillating saw. Massive blood loss for more than 12 minutes left Angel with severe brain damage.

Because of the earlier operations, the surgeon should have known that Angel’s aorta could have been attached to the inside of his breastbone, and an angiogram before the operation showed there was practically no space between the aorta and the breastbone. Under those conditions a different procedure would have been called for to cut into Angel’s chest, certainly not using an oscillating saw, with a backup plan ready to implement in case the aorta was cut.

Angel, now 17, was left with the mental capacity of an infant. He cannot speak, or eat and drink by himself. He needs medicines regularly and his food specially prepared. Although he has learned to walk, he does not know how to cross a street, needs a diaper change every two hours, and supervision 24 hours a day. To care for Angel round the clock, Mixzi quit her job and she has never worked since. Her husband works full time and relieves her when she is sick.

Angel’s family received a settlement totaling $3 million to cover his expenses, but none for the pain and suffering of Angel or his parents. “We got nothing for them ruining our lives,” said Angel’s mother, Mixzi. “To tell you the truth, I don’t think this is enough money to care for my son. I don’t think it was what he deserved.” The settlement was calculated to last for Angel’s care only until the age of 41, she said.

The state is also paying for Angel’s care. Mixzi qualifies for 80 hours a month of care for Angel at a state-funded center for the disabled. She also qualifies for help with in-home care for 100 hours a month. “They pay to take care of our son at home, it is not as expensive as a nursing home,” Mixzi said. The catch is that Mixzi does not know what happens with state funding when Angel turns 18 in the fall. “If it ends when he is 18, that is the thing, if I need to someone to take care of him then we have to pay.” When that runs out, they will have to turn to the state again and hope there is aid.

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