“Bi-lateral vocal chord paralysis”

The defendant took the stand this morning in the Oconee Common Pleas Court and started to answer questions from his attorney, in defense of the medical malpractice allegations against him. Dr. Frank Rao gave an explanation of the complications in the 2009 thyroidectomy to remove a cancerous gland from patient Cassie Sweenor. Rao told the jury during surgery Sweenor encountered breathing trouble and it was necessary to insert a small tube into her airway to stabilize his patient. But Rao realized his patient needed the kinds of care not available at Oconee Medical Center, so in consultation with a specialist a decision was made to transfer Sweenor to the Medical University Hospital in Charleston. Although the transfer by medical helicopter was delayed two days, Rao said, Sweenor was stable when she was eventually placed on the helicopter. The jury was told yesterday that the Charleston destination was never reached, as in-flight, the patient coughed and, in the words of witness Dr. Jason Thurman, “lost her airway.” That necessitated a diversion to Columbia and a hospital there. The 28-year old Sweenor later died in a hospice home