CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A Charleston County widow says the staff at Roper St. Francis hospital is responsible for her husband’s death.

A lawsuit filed yesterday alleges medical staff failed to see the signs of some deadly complications following her husband’s surgery.

In January of 2020, Jan Becker’s husband, James, went to the hospital for an elective anterior cervical decompression with fusion. This surgery helps to improve spine function and is conducted through the patient’s neck.

The lawsuit says common problems after these surgeries can lead to hematomas, or blood clots. Clotted blood began blocking Becker’s throat shortly after his surgery, according to the suit, blocking his airway and causing him to cough.

Before the nurses listed in the suit could realize this, however, they did a few things wrong, according to the documents.

The suit alleges the nurses attributed his abnormal breathing to a “panic attack.” Additionally, when Becker said his cervical collar was too tight and causing discomfort around his neck, a nurse removed it and readjusted, saying “don’t tell [the doctor].” The nurses are also alleged to have not replaced the ice packs around his neck.

After nearly 8 hours of struggling to breath, Becker wanted to take the matter into his own hands, saying, “I can’t breathe, I need to be suctioned, it feels like mucus is stuck in my throat.” He asked for a scalpel to remove the blockage himself. At this point, the suit says he had swelling up to his jaw.

Becker was taken to the ICU and finally the operating room, but before he got there, the suit claims the staff still didn’t do anything to help him breath normally.

Becker fell into cardiac arrest, lost consciousness and died four days later.

Becker’s surviving wife is suing for wrongful death and claiming negligence in the hospital’s post-op care of her husband.

Live 5 has reached out to the hospital for comment but has not heard back.

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