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Herlinda Garcia was taken aback when her Victoria doctor diagnosed her with Stage IV terminal breast cancer.
Facing the inevitable in 2009, the mother of four gave away her belongings, arranged for a hospice worker to care for her at home, and even made out a bucket list.
Garcia underwent seven months of chemotherapy treatment and was placed on anxiety medications to help cope with the stress of the ordeal.
But there was a major hitch: Her doctor had misread the lab results. She was cancer-free and didn’t need to undergo the painful treatment after all.
A Victoria County jury agreed last week, awarding Garcia $367,500 in damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor, the late Ahmad I. Qadri.
State District Judge Skipper Koetter is expected to lower the award to comply with state law, which limits liability to $250,000 per claim.
Qadri died in March of this year and the damages were awarded from his estate.
But no amount of money, she said, “is ever going to cover what I went through. Before (the diagnosis), I was always dressing up, wearing jewelry. When something like that (mistake) happens, your self-esteem is not there. Now I’m working on getting it back.”
In 2009, Garcia underwent surgery to remove a benign tumor from her left breast.
So when Qadri, an oncologist, diagnosed her with cancer about a month later, the news wasn’t a total shock.
It turns out that Qadri misread a PET/CT scan during one of her first visits. He incorrectly thought she had enlarged lymph nodes.
The diagnosis “was like a mourning process – mourning for myself,” said Garcia, 54, a part-time civil process worker with the state. “I just lost my dad three years before, and I felt like I was mourning for my family.”
In 2011, Garcia was admitted to Citizens Medical Center for treatment of anxiety, and doctors performed some scans because she was a cancer patient.
One physician suspected that was an incorrect diagnosis, a hunch confirmed by subsequent testing at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Garcia said.
An evaluation at M.D. Anderson “confirmed that Ms. Garcia had been cancer free since the April 2009 mastectomy and that all of Dr. Qadri’s treatment had been unnecessary,” according to the suit.
“When I first heard the news at M.D. Anderson and was told that ‘you don’t have it,’ I was happy because I was blessed … because my faith is very strong,” she said. “At the same time I was angry because all this damage had been done.
“I don’t hate him (Qadri) but I feel that the patient trusts the doctor, and they need to take that extra effort to read things a little closer so a mistake like this isn’t made.”