Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Acupuncture gone wrong - Jamaican doctors save life of Caymanian woman whose lungs collapsed after botched treatment

Published:Sunday | April 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Debbie Pennington-Ebanks (centre) shares a photo op with the doctors who saved her life, Shomari Blake (left) and Omar Felix.
It is always best to get acupuncture treatment from a trained, certified professional.
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The collapse of her lungs following acupuncture treatment could have been fatal for one Caymanian woman, had it not been for the quick intervention of two Jamaican doctors who treated her when she was rushed to the Cayman Islands Hospital.

Both Dr Shomari Blake, a senior resident, and Dr Omar Felix, a surgeon, said a collapsed lung, or pneumothorax, as it is medically termed, is something they were used to treating while they worked at major hospitals in Jamaica.

But whereas it was often caused by a gunshot wound or from a stabbing incident here, it was the needles used during an acupuncture session that caused Debbie Pennington-Ebanks to start experiencing difficulties breathing.

"Apparently, one of the needles used on the back caused her lungs to be punctured and she had severe chest pain and severe shortness of breath," Dr Blake told the Sunday Gleaner.

"If you get stabbed or shot, you would come immediately to the hospital and when we have the pneumothorax there, it is immediately drained and it is immediately treated," explained Dr Felix, who has been living in the Cayman Islands for the past five months.

"If you go for a procedure for acupuncture, you are not going to really be thinking that my lung is collapsed, so you are going to go home and then you will start to get short of breath and start to have difficulty, and then you wonder what's happening. You can die very quickly, because you are just not expecting that."

 

SAVING LIVES DAILY

 

He continued, "When you have pneumothorax, you actually have the sensation that you are going to die. It is a feeling of impending doom."

The doctors said saving lives is something they do daily, but their valiant efforts in this particular case have been making headlines in the Cayman Islands after Pennington-Ebanks publicly thanked the doctors and staff at the hospital for saving her life last month.

According to media reports, she started having difficulties breathing after returning to work following the acupuncture procedure. An x-ray done at the hospital confirmed that her lungs had collapsed and she was referred by an emergency room physician for treatment.

Both Drs Blake and Felix then carried out a life-saving manoeuvre that allowed them to drain the air from Pennington-Ebanks' chest wall, so that her lungs could be expanded.

"What we did for her, which was unusual, was that we did a minimal invasive technique, so that would cause her less pain and the cosmetic outcome would be improved, as opposed to doing it the regular way that would require a bigger incision," explained Dr Felix.

Both doctors are graduates of Campion College and worked together at the University Hospital of the West Indies as well as the Kingston Public Hospital.

Dr Blake worked at several clinics in Kingston and St Andrew and was at one point the president of the Clinical Doctors Association. Living in the Cayman Islands for a year now, he is currently a student at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, where he is pursuing his doctor of medicine degree in Family Medicine.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com