Published June 27, 2011
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A 60-year-old Army veteran won a $925,000 settlement with the Department of Veterans Affairs after he was blinded in one eye during a routine outpatient cataract operation, his attorney said Monday.
Jose Goncalves of Hartford was blinded in his right eye when a third-year resident at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in West Haven incorrectly administered an anesthetic during the procedure in 2007, attorney Christopher Bernard said. The resident then injected too much anesthetic, causing his eyeball to explode, Bernard said.
"Jose suffered excruciating pain after that botched surgery and continued to have severe pain for months afterward," Bernard said. "The damage to the eye is obvious because his iris is missing and his eyelid droops. If anything should ever happen to the undamaged left eye, he could face total blindness."
The U.S. attorney's office, which represented the VA, declined to comment. The resident, Dr. Yue Michelle Wang, also declined to comment. She wasn't sued because doctors who work for the federal government have immunity, Bernard said.
Wang incorrectly placed a needle with a local anesthetic directly into Goncalves' eye instead of behind his eye, Bernard said.
Goncalves endured four more surgeries in an attempt to save the damaged eye and to maximize his eyesight, but he has no functional vision in that eye, his attorney said. He is able to see a rough outline of his hand when held about 6 inches in front of his face, Bernard said.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport in 2009 against the VA, argued that Goncalves' injuries were a result of carelessness and negligence by the doctors at the Veterans' Administration facility and that he "has been permanently deprived of his ability to carry on and enjoy life's activities."
"It is clear that Dr. Wang's training was seriously inadequate," Bernard said. "This should have been a routine procedure as it is for countless people every day. When proper techniques are used, this particular complication should never occur."
Goncalves suffers from a significant lack of depth perception that makes him unable to resume his previous job as a roofer, his attorney said. He works in the maintenance department at Central Connecticut State University.
He is unable to drive except for short distances. Reading, watching television and going to movies are difficult because the undamaged eye tires so quickly, Bernard said.