Warning: This story contains graphic images
CORNELIUS, Ore. -- A Portland man is suing a Washington County veterinarian after his dog suffered severe burns on an operating table while undergoing surgery.
The dog’s owner, Eric McOmie, is a disabled veteran and the dog serves as an emotional support animal.
“It’s egregious at the least,” said McOmie, who has filed a lawsuit alleging malpractice, negligence, and emotional distress. McOmie is the son of KGW contributor Grant McOmie.
The dog, a Goldendoodle named Perry, was welcomed by Eric McOmie and his wife prior to his deployment overseas.
“I’ve had her since [she was] 10 weeks,” he said.
After serving in Afghanistan, McOmie was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Perry then became McOmie’s emotional support animal.
“She was really the rock at home that kept everything together. That glue,” McOmie said.
Perry continued to be an important part of McOmie’s family following his return to Portland. In January of last year, though, Perry’s health took a turn and he was admitted to Cornelius Veterinary Clinic in Washington County for surgery due to an intestinal blockage. McOmie says there were complications with the initial procedure, and Perry was readmitted to the clinic for emergency corrective surgery.
During the second surgery, something went wrong.
“There was a complete lack of checking,” McOmie said.
During the procedure, the heated operating table that Perry was on malfunctioned and became too hot. Perry, who was anesthetized, suffered fourth degree burns after lying on the table for hours.
McOmie says they didn’t notice the burns until a couple of days later. He and his wife initially thought the burns were bruises, but noticed the sores as they continued to get worse.
“Nobody had made mention of this to us. And we were essentially in the ICU with her for almost four days," he said.
McOmie said that staff at the Cornelius Veterinary Clinic apologized and offered to treat Perry’s burns, but he decided to take the dog elsewhere.
“I didn’t want to gamble with Perry’s life again. I couldn’t do that,” he said.
McOmie says he and his wife incurred thousands of dollars in subsequent medical bills to treat Perry’s burns. McOmie would later ask for reparations from the clinic, but was told by staff “We can’t financially help you,” according to the lawsuit.
McOmie’s suit seeks $98,517 in damages from Cornelius.
Dr. Bob Bullard, one of the Cornelius veterinarians named in the suit, told KGW that his staff had “no way of knowing” that the operating table malfunctioned and overheated. He said the table has since been replaced.
“I’m proud of our team, who stayed here into the late evening hours to successfully perform a life-saving surgery,” Bullard said of the corrective surgery in an email to KGW. “We were devastated to learn several days later that Perry suffered a burn as a result of a malfunction from a heating element on our surgery table.”
“We immediately offered to take care of Perry at no charge but unfortunately her owners declined our attempts to help and have continued to make excessive financial demands on our clinic and threatened adverse media publicity if they are not met,” the statement read. “We have always put our patients’ interests first and we will continue to focus on providing excellent medical care just as we have done for over 40 years.”
McOmie argues that Perry’s burns could have been prevented and that discussions with Bullard have been contentious.
“They don’t want to work with us, even though they say in emails they do. They just flat out deny and are outraged that we think this is even an issue," he said.
When contacted via phone Wednesday, Bullard told KGW the matter amounted to a “non-story” and that McOmie’s lawsuit was “full of misrepresentations.” He said McOmie’s complaint was the first ever at the clinic.
“It seems like this is a very cut and dry issue to me,” McOmie said. “Nobody wants to help us out and right the wrong that was committed. And that just blows me away.”