Anguished Agnes Kelly (below) holds a picture of her late sister Kay Cregan, a mom of two, who died after surgery in offices of Dr. Michael Sachs (above).
An apparently healthy 42-year-old woman died last week following a nose job and face-lift by a Manhattan plastic surgeon with the state's worst malpractice record.
Kay Kelly Cregan, a mother of two young sons who flew to the city from her home in Ireland, went into cardiac arrest in the recovery room of Dr. Michael Sachs' office on March 15.
She was brain-dead when she arrived in an ambulance at Roosevelt Hospital, according to her sister Agnes Kelly. Doctors there took her off life support two days later.
"This is all so horrible," said Kelly. "We just feel that the whole event did not go how it should have gone."
Cregan had first learned of Sachs in an Irish newspaper, Kelly said.
The article was notable for what it left out, Kelly said.
It did not mention that Sachs has for years been one of the most sued doctors in New York, as first revealed by the Daily News five years ago.
Current records show Sachs' malpractice standing hasn't improved. His official physician profile shows he has made 33 malpractice payments during the past decade, more than any other doctor in the state, according to a News analysis ofthe National Practitioner Data Bank public file.
Additionally, there are two malpractice suits pending against Sachs alleging breathing difficulties stemming from botched nose jobs.
Kelly said the article Cregan saw also didn't note that state health officials, citing negligence, last year banned Sachs from ever performing complex nasal procedures without the supervision of another doctor.
Sachs' lawyer Jay Butterman said the disciplinary action did not prohibit the doctor from doing the type of surgery that he performed on Cregan by himself.
State is investigating
Bill Van Slyke, spokesman for the state Health Department, declined to say whether the procedure was allowed.
The Health Department is investigating Cregan's death, as it does all unexpected hospital deaths, said Van Slyke.
Butterman said the doctor did not cause Cregan's death.
"Dr. Sachs and his family send the deepest sympathies to the family," Butterman said. "This is a terrible tragedy. But itis one which is simply not attributable to anything that Dr. Sachs or his staff did."
Sachs has filed a libel suit against The News but hasn't yet specified the substance of his claims.
Butterman accused The News of having "an agenda" regarding Sachs. He was especially incensed by a recent editorial.
Kelly, a nurse in the Boston area, notified The News of her sister's death after finding articles about Sachs on the Internet.
"We're seeing all this stuff on him and it's just killing us," Kelly said.
After seeing the Irish newspaper article, Cregan wrote an E-mail to Sachs, laying out why she wanted the surgery, according to medical and other records her sister provided to The News.
"I believe when you meet me that you will think me suitable for that procedure (I am 42 years old but look 56-58 approx)," she wrote. "I have become very self-conscious when meeting people and [I am] becoming more and more anti-social by the day."
Without telling her sister, she scheduled the surgery, to be followed by two weeks of recovery in an apartment provided by Sachs, Kelly said. The procedure was to cost about $32,000.
"I guess there was a stigma attached to doing this," said John O'Grady, Kelly's wife. "She didn't want anyone to know or to talk her out of it."
On March 14, Cregan was anesthetized in Sachs' Central Park South office at 6 p.m., the medical records show.
The operation lasted 2 hours, 55 minutes, Sachs noted. By then, it was 9:15 p.m., and Cregan was taken to a recovery room in Sachs' office.
A nurse, whose name doesn't appear on the records, checked in on Cregan every hour, according to the records.
The nurse's report ends with a long entry at 6:30 a.m. Cregan first said she felt dizzy, and then said she was fainting, the nurse wrote.
"I assisted her to lay on the floor because I don't want herto hit her head somewhere," the nurse wrote. "Because she's heavy, I put her on the floor and connected [her] to the monitor."
Cregan's blood pressure and pulse were falling, the records show.
"Started CPR after a minute, I called 911," the last note reads.
The call from Sachs' office about a patient in cardiac arrest came into the 911 switchboard at 6:37 a.m., said David Billig, a Fire Department spokesman. Cregan arrived at the Roosevelt Hospital emergency room at 7:06 a.m., Billig said.
A spokesman for Roosevelt declined to comment.
Cregan was taken off life support on March 17. Her family buried her in Ireland on Tuesday.
Grace Brugess, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner, said an autopsy on March 18 was inconclusive, and further tests have been ordered.
The case points out a weakness in regulations governing surgeries performed in doctor's offices, said Arthur Levin, director of the Center for Medical Consumers. Hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers are required to have equipment and personnel capable of restarting a patient's heart, but doctors aren't, he said.
Kelly only wishes her sister had that information before visiting Sachs.
"It is heartbreaking that if Kay had seen your article, none of this would have happened," she said.