On September 19, 2013 MSgt. Cornett underwent a tonsillectomy at the Misawa Air Force Base Hospital. Following the directions of his post-op discharge instructions, MSgt. Cornett reported back to the hospital with complaints of spitting up bright red blood, fever, and night sweats on 9/22/13. His vital signs were taken; a student looked at his throat, and called a specialist by telephone for a consultation. Despite his heart rate and blood pressure being significantly elevated above his pre-op vital signs, he was discharged without any lab work and told to come back if he became worse.
Less than five hours later, MSgt. Cornett reported back to the base hospital and was taken back for emergency surgery to stop the bleeding. Without being connected to a cardiac monitor, the medical team attempted to establish an airway multiple times. During these attempts MSgt. Cornett’s lungs filled with blood and he went into cardiac arrest. A code Blue was called.
After 9 minutes, numerous cardiac drugs, and still no cardiac monitor in place, an emergency airway was finally established. During these 9 minutes, MSgt. Cornett suffered from an Anoxic Brain Injury due to the lack of oxygen to his brain. He was transferred to a Japanese hospital where he remained in a persistent vegetative state on life support until he passed away on October 9, 2013 from the brain injury sustained.
Upon reviewing MSgt. Cornett’s medical records and learning of the above details, it became apparent that the medical team was underqualified and did not follow the proper standards of care. Not only did his medical records at the Misawa Air Force Base hospital have him classified as a single black male, it was also discovered that the student signed his credentials as the Admitting Doctor and the specialist that was consulted by telephone during the initial visit was not a physician at all, but is licensed as a “General Practice Dentist” according the National Provider Identifier (NPI). The dentist lists himself as the Attending Physician, a General Surgeon, and a Chief Medical Examiner.
Had MSgt. Cornett received the proper standards of care, he would not have been sent home when he first sought treatment without lab work, which later identified he did indeed have significantly elevated white cell count. He would not have had someone “practicing as a nurse anesthetist” make multiple attempts at establishing an oral airway while he was in cardiac arrest and he would not have had a dentist perform an emergency airway. MSgt. Cornett’s death was a result of sheer medical negligence.
Unless we make a stand, these tragedies will continue to destroy military families.
MSgt. William D. Cornett
06/24/1981 – 10/09/2013