‘Botched surgery led to 2-week coma’


A woman is suing a Commonwealth Healthcare Center physician for malpractice after surgery that allegedly went wrong put her in a two-week coma. She is also suing CHCC for allegedly negligently hiring the physician, saying the corporation failed to do a proper background check.

Arayanee Ann Sablan Maratita filed the civil lawsuit in Superior Court against CHCC and CHCC’s Dr. Mark A. Hiesterman after an infection due to bile duct leakage following a gall bladder removal operation allegedly put her in a coma.

Maratita, through her lawyer, Michael Dotts, alleges that if CHCC had conducted a proper background check, it would’ve learned of multiple “driving under the influence” cases involving Hiesterman, indicating a possible alcohol addiction and inability to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety. The lawsuit alleges that Hiesterman was convicted of DUI in Michigan in 2006 and again in Idaho in 2011.

Hiesterman’s medical license was also suspended on Oct. 1, 2015, in Washington, according to the findings of the Department of Health, Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery.

“A routine background check by [CHCC] would reveal Dr. Hiesterman’s possible addiction to alcohol and his inability to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety. CHCC knew or should have known that Dr. Hiesterman was unfit or incompetent and CHCC created a particular risk of harm to others by hiring Dr. Hiesterman,” Dotts said.

He said his client is asking the court to award her $2 million for past, present, and future medical expenses and related living costs in an amount to be determined at trial.

On top of that, Dotts said Maratita also wants the court to award her $100,000 for emotional distress, pain, and suffering, and lost enjoyment of life; and $200,000 for past wages.

According to the lawsuit, back in Jan. 9, 2020, Hiesterman performed laparoscopic surgery on Maratita to remove her gallbladder. After the operation Maratita claims she did not feel right after the surgery and was in extreme pain.

The plaintiff said she asked to remain at the hospital for post-operative care and observation, but instead Hiesterman sent her home with pain medications.

On Jan. 10, 2020, a day after the surgery, Maratita went back to the emergency room due to acute abdominal pain near the site of the surgery.

Hiesterman was consulted, but he assumed she was just having gas pain and prescribed her stronger medication for pain control. This did not help and Maratita claims she still felt immense pain and nausea, leading to her admission at the CHCC on Jan. 12, 2020.

On Jan. 13, 2020 while she was admitted, a CT scan was performed over Maratita’s pelvic area and it was discovered that there was fluid in her abdomen, and bile duct leakage was cited as one of the possible causes for the fluid.

Again, despite this report of a possible leakage, Hiesterman allegedly did not look into the matter and just sent Maratita off with more pain medications on Jan. 14, 2020.

After being discharged on Jan. 14, Maratita said the pain and her vomiting only grew worse and her stomach started to bloat.

On Jan. 18, 2020, another CT scan was performed on Maratita, revealing a significant amount of fluid in her abdomen.

However, it was only after a third CT scan conducted on Jan. 24, 2020, that Hiesterman performed surgery on Maratita to insert a device to drain the fluid in her abdomen but, by then, the fluid buildup had significantly worsened. In addition, the device allegedly was not positioned correctly, and Maratita had to undergo another surgery on Feb. 3 to reposition it.

Maratita was discharged right after twhe Feb. 3 surgery, but she came back to the hospital soon after due to excruciating pain and was finally transported to Los Angeles on Feb. 10 for an “ERCP,” a procedure to fix the bile duct leak that was causing the fluid buildup in her abdomen because the procedure is not available on Saipan, the lawsuit stated.

After arriving in Los Angeles, Maratita went into septic shock because the bile leak caused a whole-body infection that was not properly controlled at CHCC, which sent Maratita into a two-week coma

When she woke from her coma, Maratita had a successful surgery at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles to fix her bile leak but the neurological damage from the septic shock had already occurred. Maratita couldn’t speak, walk, eat, or use her hands.

The doctors in Los Angeles prescribed her speech, physical and occupational therapy and sent her back to CHCC to take care of the remainder of her treatment since her presence in Los Angeles was just for a specialized procedure that the local hospital did not have the ability to perform.

Maratita arrived on Saipan in June 2020 and remained in CHCC’s care from June to October 2020 for complications of the bile duct leakage and post-operative care.

Maratita was also seen by doctors at CHCC for neurological damage. Her last visit to CHCC was on Oct. 1, 2020.

She departed soon after for Hawaii, the nearest location where her prescribed speech, physical and occupational therapies were available.

However, after one year of therapy, Dotts said his client’s speech impediment is still “very severe” and she still requires assistance for everyday tasks such as eating, getting dressed, and going to the restroom.

“It will take Maratita many years to fully recover to a point where she will no longer require assistance for everyday tasks and is able to go back to her previous job as a teacher. Her organs and her brain have been permanently damaged by the septic shock and/or the coma,” the lawsuit states.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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