A South Florida woman says an anesthesiologist at one of the most respected hospitals in the area injected a drug in the wrong leg -- and worries the mistake will plague her forever.
"I just can’t believe this occurred," said 22-year-old Steffi Ortiz, a former college soccer player who says she can no longer walk or run without pain since falling after the procedure.
"I just can’t believe they can mess up a procedure so simple they should be aware of."
Ortiz went for surgery on her right knee at Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables, where she says an anesthesiologist mistakenly injected a drug into her left leg even though her right leg was visibly marked for surgery.
One experienced South Florida surgeon questioned the long term impact of any such mistake to NBCMiami, but Ortiz says she subsequently experienced nerve damage in her left leg.
She believes this contributed to a fall in the hospital.
"When I was trying to go to the bathroom...I just all of a sudden collapsed in the bathroom."
Her attorney Spencer Aronfeld is beginning legal action against anesthesiologist Dr. Juan Cucalon and Doctors Hospital.
Aronfeld says Cucalon injected Ortiz with a drug in the wrong leg, even though pictures clearly showed which knee needed repair.
"This type of case is the one and only situation where its completely avoidable," he argued.
Aronfeld says some medical records from the day of Ortiz ’s surgery indicate that her left leg should get the procedure, but in other places in the paperwork her right leg is listed for surgery.
"For some unexplainable reason, the anesthesiologist applied the femoral block to the wrong leg," he said. "This is completely unacceptable."
Aronfeld acknowledges that the knee surgeon did operate on the correct knee, but that the effects of an anesthesiology mistake still hamper his client.
"It's super hyper sensitive," Ortiz says of her once-healthy knee. "I can’t wear shorts. I can’t do a lot of things."
No complaints against Dr. Cucalon have been registered with the state.
"That indicates the doctor has an outstanding medical record," said his attorney, Rolando Diaz, adding that "the allegations against him are being thoroughly investigated."
Attorneys for Doctor's Hospital did not respond to requests for comment.
The surgeon who spoke with NBCMiami recommended that patients have any extremity clearly marked yes or no in advance of any surgery. Click here more information on preventing procedural mistakes.