When Veronica Valdez went in for finger surgery at Torrance Memorial Medical Center in October 2011, she probably never expected to be the butt of a practical joke as she lay unconscious.
But near the end of the procedure, Dr. Patrick Yang placed stickers on Valdez’s face to give her tattoo-style teardrops and a black moustache, emulating the appearance of a male gang member. Once the stickers were in place, nurse’s aid Patricia Gomez took a picture of the work with her mobile phone.
Valdez is now suing over the incident. Although Gomez claims to have deleted the photo promptly after the incident, the image was posted on Facebook, obtained by the NY Daily News, and is serving as evidence in the lawsuit.
Valdez herself had worked at the hospital for 13 years managing medical supplies, and was on a friendly basis with the surgery-room staff. Dr. Yang reported that rather that feeling insulted, he believed at the time that Valdez would think the joke was amusing.
“I thought she would think this is funny and she would appreciate it, “ said Dr. Yang.
On the contrary, Valdez said in court documents obtained by The Daily Mail that she felt “violated. I was in shock.”
According to Valdez’s attorney, Andrew Ryan, the plaintiff was “ridiculed and humiliated while under anesthesia.” He claims that she quit her job out of embarrassment after the incident.
Valdez has filed a civil lawsuit set for trial in January 2014. She is claiming violation of privacy and emotional distress, and seeking compensation from the hospital and the anesthesiologist, as well as his medical group.
The hospital does not allow cell phones in patient areas, per a rule set in 2009 following a 2009 incident.
Said nursing manager Arthur Ano, "There was an incident, some years [ago], I walked in an operating room and the sales rep was taking a picture of a naked patient and I seized the phone. We discovered more pictures of the patient on his cell phone."
Yang and Gomez both faced disciplinary action by the hospital, but were not fired.