A former nurse is suing the hospital she worked at after witnessing a patient’s face catching fire during an operation, according to Australian media.
Marilyn Espinola was working at Sunshine Hospital in St Albans, northwest of Melbourne, when a procedure to remove a section of a patient’s artery went horribly wrong.
The fire broke out during the bilateral temporal arterial biopsy in March 2020 after a leak from the patient’s oxygen mask gathered under their hospital gown, according to news.com.au.
The patient was left with burns to “various parts of their body” according to a report, published by injury compensation advisory service WorkSafe and obtained by Australian media.
As a result of witnessing the incident, Ms Espinola said she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and experiences panic attacks three to four times a week, meaning she cannot return to work.
“I just heard ‘fire, fire’… I couldn’t see any but then he tapped the patient’s face and I saw fire,” Ms Espinola said, when recalling the accident to the news outlet.
She described the distressing scene of the patient “screaming” in pain and medical staff frantically trying to extinguish the flames.
She said she thought everyone was going to “explode and die”.
During the panic, Ms Espinola fell over and injured her ankle, which she later said was not taken seriously by her employer.
Lawyers working on her behalf are seeking compensation for her loss of income and “pain and suffering”.
“Staff at Sunshine Hospital ought to have known this type of medical procedure carries a higher than usual risk of surgical fire,” Erin Jobling, solicitor at Shine Lawyers said.
Western Health – which runs Sunshine Hospital – said it was unable to comment as it is a “confidential matter and is the subject of legal proceedings”.