March 19, 2009

Static/Major’s doctor speaks

Surgeon says he would have acted differently had he known more about hip-hop star’s condition

A physician who treated Grammy-award winning hip-hop star Static/Major says he would have personally examined the patient before recommending the removal of an improperly placed catheter had the attending nurse informed him about his complaints of pain.

In a sworn deposition, Dr. Dean J. Wickel, the surgeon who implanted the dialysis catheter to treat the musician’s rare autoimmune disease, says the nurse didn’t mention Static’s complaints. If she had, the doctor says he would have removed the medical device himself, rather than giving her the OK to carry out the procedure.

“I don’t know the way in which the catheter was removed,” Wickel said. “I would not have left the hospital if I was aware of that concern.”

In February, LEO Weekly’s cover story about the Louisville-native — born Stephen Garrett — reported that the nurse, Diane Richards, recalled the patient complaining about intense pain once the catheter was placed.

“I think I documented that he was saying, ‘This hurts. This hurts too much. There’s something wrong in my organs,’ which was unusual,” Richards said.

Last year, the talented songwriter, who co-wrote Lil Wayne’s hit song “Lollipop,” checked into Baptist Hospital East where he was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a rare neuromuscular disease. Hours later, the 33-year-old singer died.

Garrett’s family has since filed a malpractice lawsuit against both the healthcare provider and Dr. Wickel, claiming medical negligence. Records obtained from the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office reveal the autopsy report stated the cause of death was due to medical complications associated with the catheter placement.

Donald Brown, the attorney representing Dr. Wickel, says his client has been deeply affected by Garrett’s death, but he has an impeccable record as a physician.

“I think any time someone devotes their life to caring for people and the outcome is less than perfect, it’s going to have an impact,” says Brown. “Our defense is he acted appropriately and in compliance with how he was trained.”

In a video transcript of his deposition, however, Wickel admitted Garrett’s X-rays revealed the catheter line he inserted was placed incorrectly. Once he found the error, he called upstairs and instructed the nurse to remove the line, believing it would be safe to replace it the next morning. When the nurse pulled the line from Garrett’s neck, he began losing consciousness.

“I cannot assume that the reason for his death was the removal of the catheter,” Wickel said. “I cannot say for certain whether a combination of his underlying disease … plus a catheter that was misplaced didn’t contribute to his death.”

The proceedings in the case are still in the early stages and could go on for two or three years, according to Wickel’s counsel. Both sides are filing several motions for discovery, indicating a long process lies ahead.

Recently, attorney’s representing the Garrett family asked Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Charles Cunningham to force Baptist East to provide the identity of Garrett’s roommate at the hospital. Lawyers for the hospital have denied repeated requests for the information, citing privacy laws.