ALGONA, IA – 42 year-old Belinda Glingells will never forget the unspeakable horrors she felt and saw last Thursday afternoon in the Algona Family Medicine Clinic procedure room. Taken back to the procedure room for what was supposed to be a routine benign wart removal, she found herself awake throughout the entirety of the 5-minute procedure.
“I could hear Dr. Heally talking to me…and I can still feel the icy blast of the freezing tool,” she said. “I tried shouting, ‘wait…I’m still awake! I’m still awake!,’ but it was like I was paralyzed. I was utterly powerless beneath the savage chill which descended upon me.”
Apparently unaware that his patient was completely and horrifically conscious, Frank Heally, MD, proceeded to freeze 2 warts from her left leg. After he told her he was done, Ms. Glingells broke down sobbing, explaining to him that she was awake and remembered every minute of what had happened. It took nearly an hour for one of the clinic medical assistants to escort her out to her car.
In typical medical fashion, Dr. Heally was dismissive of the trauma his patient had suffered.
“She was never supposed to be asleep; we don’t do general anesthesia for wart removal…or for anything here. I don’t know where she got that idea.”
Ms. Glingells has taken 2 weeks off of work to recover and to work through the “flashbacks” which still haunt her every time that she opens the freezer door or hears the song, “Frosty the Snowman.” She is pursuing legal action for emotional harms and has also demanded that the “risk of being conscious” be added to the clinic’s Minor Procedures Consent Form.
“I have to know that what happened to me means something – that maybe through this awful thing that occurred in my past, the future might change… that something beautiful might flower from the impenetrably dark manure of my suffering,” she said.
Like most physicians, Dr. Heally remains apathetic and resistant to change.
“I’m not putting “risk of consciousness” on the consent form. Everyone is awake during every procedure. It’s not a ‘risk’.”
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