Three surgeries, two different hospitals and one Life Flight: all for a hip replacement surgery.

A Greybull woman is suing Cody Regional Health and its former orthopedic surgeon and hospital board member Frank Schmidt for claims she nearly died and suffered long-term illness from an allegedly botched hip replacement surgery he administered.

In her lawsuit for more than $1 million, Onita Gillstrap is accusing the defendants of negligence related to failure to provide appropriate surgical and reasonable care, failure to advise of risks that caused physical damages and medical treatments. Gilstrap said she is suffering damages that include past and future medical costs, lost earning capacity and household services, physical pain and disability, suffering and emotional distress.

Cody Regional Health is referred to as West Park Hospital in the lawsuit.

Gilstrap cited medical notes in her allegations.

Schmidt submitted his response on July 16 and denied all claims of negligence. He said in her filing, Gilstrap misquoted and misinterpreted his and Dr. Kristin Flowers’ notes and medical records. On the same day as his response, Schmidt’s attorney made a separate filing requesting a jury trial on this matter.

Gilstrap alleges during the surgery in March 2019 an arterial vessel was lacerated, causing her massive bleeding and her blood pressure to drop to life threatening levels, necessitating a massive blood transfusion.

The blood loss continued and staff could not determine its source.

Gilstrap said in the court filing she went into cardiac arrest while receiving a CT scan and needed “life-sustaining measures” to save her life.

No ruptured vessels were found in further inspections by CRH staff, only profuse bleeding.

“Bleeding continued in the surgical hip bed and Gilstrap remained critically hypotensive,” according to the filing complaint.

Through resuscitation efforts Gilstrap received multiple blood transfusions and was placed on blood pressure medecine.

After she was stabilized but still in critical condition, it was planned to send Gilstrap to St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings. As she was getting processed from the surgery table for the Life Flight helicopter, Gilstrap went into cardiac arrest again but was eventually stabilized again.

Gilstrap said St. Vincent’s staff determined she had suffered a posterior wall transected right external artery and vein injury during the surgery. CRH staff had been searching for the arterial injury but were not able to find it.

Gilstrap was also found with hematoma and a small bowel injury.

Two days later, Gilstrap had to have another surgery during which it was determined the artery “was completely transected.” After this surgery she was sent back to the ICU in critical condition.

Gilstrap remained in the hospital for nearly three months before finally being transferred to Beartooth Billings Clinic in Red Lodge for ongoing therapies and wound care.

“Due to the negligent surgical error by Schmidt, Gilstrap suffered a devastating vascular injury with catastrophic complications, and permanent residual physical and mental injuries,” according to the filing complaint.

Schmidt is no longer employed with CRH and let his medical license expire in September 2020, according to documents.

In numerous instances in his response, Schmidt said he lacked sufficient knowledge and information to form a belief of truth to the allegations. He said he was acting “within the course and scope of his employment at all relevant times.”

Schmidt also said the damages may have been caused by a third party, omissions or preexisting conditions.

“The plaintiff’s damages were not caused by the negligence of the defendants, but may have been the result of the natural consequences of known risks and complications of medical treatment to which Gilstrap voluntarily and knowingly consented,” his response said.

Gilstrap, who filed the case on June 14, is being represented by Billings attorney Jon Moyers. Schmidt is represented by Scott Klosterman of Casper-based Williams, Porter, Day & Neville P.C.

District Court Judge Bill Simpson will preside over the civil court case.

(1) comment

Tyler VanDusen

This is why I choose to never have major surgeries in Cody. I'll either go to Montana or Colorado. I don't trust the physicians here on even a simple outpatient biopsy.

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