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Woman disfigured after being misdiagnosed with cancer, gets surgery

Lessya Kotelevskaya
Lessya Kotelevskaya
ABC

A woman says unnecessary radiation therapy for cancer she never had left her disfigured.

Lessya Kotelevskaya, 30, will now have a million-dollar, 24-hour reconstructive surgery for free on Monday, thanks to a surgeon at the University of Louisville Hospital.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Kotelevskaya’s cousin, Greg Sennik, told ABC News. “I can’t even put it together how grateful we are.”

It will be performed by Dr. Jarrod Little, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon who is donating his time.

"I want to be a fully normal person like everybody else," Kotelevskaya said.

When Kotelevskaya was 19 she was accidentally elbowed in the jaw, and went to a doctor after it swelled. Doctors took a biopsy and told her she had a cancerous tumor in her jaw bone that could kill her within a few months.

She had 40 sessions of intense radiation that destroyed soft tissue and bone, disfiguring the right side of her face and making it impossible for her to open her jaw far. The damaged area left a hole through her skin, and she lost teeth. She could barely speak or eat. She lost her business and her husband.

Dr. Little said, "My goal is that she can go back out in public, (that) she can do all the things we all take for granted, like chewing and eating and interacting with people on a more normal basis. She's otherwise young and healthy, and I want her back in society to raise her child and to be productive."

According to the Washington Post, diagnoses that are missed, incorrect or delayed are believed to affect 10 to 20 percent of cases, far exceeding drug errors and surgery on the wrong patient or body part, both of which have received considerably more attention. A 2009 report funded by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 28 percent of 583 diagnostic mistakes reported anonymously by doctors were life-threatening or had resulted in death or permanent disability. A meta-analysis published last year in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety found that fatal diagnostic errors in U.S. intensive care units appear to equal the 40,500 deaths that result each year from breast cancer.

In 1991, the Harvard Medical Practice Study found that misdiagnosis accounted for 14 percent of adverse events and that 75 percent of these errors involved negligence, such as a failure by doctors to follow up on test results.

Just last week the web was buzzing about a woman who was misdiagnosed while she was having a stroke. The woman filmed herself while she was having a stroke to prove doctors wrong after they diagnosed her with stress.
Stacey Yepes, of Toronto, Canada, was at home watching TV when the left side of her body went numb.
The 49-year-old went to the doctors who gave her advice on how to manage stress.
But when the same sensation struck again – this time while she was driving – she pulled over and recorded the stroke on her phone.