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Stephanie Kuleba Family Speaks Out, Sets Up Website

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, March 31, 2008 10:43 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Plastic Surgery, Malignant Hyperthermia, Anesthesia, Medical Malpractice

The family of Stephanie Kuleba speaks out on the Today show.



IMAGE SOURCE:  Stephanie Kuleba Facebook page

Joanne Kuleba and her daughter did all the homework they could when Stephanie was considering plastic surgery to correct a breast defect. 

They chose a surgeon who was highly recommended and board-certified who performed operations in a state-of-the-art surgical suite.

Stephanie’s mother, Joanne, spoke to Today co-host Matt Lauer Monday morning saying “We felt absolutely confident that this was the right decision”.

18-year old Stephanie was born with asymmetrical breasts and inverted nipples, a “birth defect” her mother says the teen was embarrassed by and wanted to have corrected while taking a break from cheerleading at her Boca Raton, Florida high school.  

“She had a birth defect, and she was extremely self-conscious about it all her life. It became more and more an issue for her as she grew into her teenage years.”

Her parents, who are divorced, talked it over and were supportive of her decision Joanne says.

Now the family is certain that a rare genetic disorder, malignant hyperthermia (MH) caused Stephanie’s reaction to anesthesia causing her temperature to spike to 110 degrees and the organs to collapse, eventually causing her death last week.

The family wants others to know about MH and has set up a web site to let the public know about the risks of routine surgery.

On it, the family lists the anesthetics that can trigger MH.


The volatile gaseous inhalation anesthetics are MH triggers:

Also, succinylcholine (Anectine), the depolarizing muscle relaxant


The only known antidote to MH is Dantrolene and the family attorney Roberto Stanziale says that the anesthesiologist administered one dose of Dantrolene.  At least eight doses are required, he says.  

Dantrolene has a short shelf life and must be prepared in order to be administered. All of that takes time when time is of the essence, says Dr. Henry Rosenberg, in an interview with IB News.

Dr. Rosenberg says there is a genetic test for MH, but it is imprecise and involves taking a biopsy of muscle tissue.  Family history of any problems under anesthesia or heat stroke might provide a clue to whether you have the genetic condition. 

Attorney Stanziale told Lauer on the Today Show that the surgeon, Dr. Steven Schuster did not use the standard of care in the operating suite. The show has the 9-1-1 tape in the videotape piece.

“These records show that these guys did about one tenth of one percent of what’s supposed to be done.”

No word yet on whether a lawsuit will be filed.  Florida law states a plaintiff must obtain another medical opinion from an outside doctor that there was some malpractice involved.

Stanziale almost answers the lawsuit question on Today.

“They might just as well have had a couple of auto mechanics in there,” he said. “Dr. Schuster’s attorney said they lived up to the standard of care. I’ve spoken to so many experts and all of them have told me the same thing: This girl did not have a chance in that clinic. They were not prepared, didn’t have the people, didn’t administer the right medicine.”

Ironically, Stephanie, who wanted to become a medical doctor may be helping to save lifes with the publicity MH receives following her death.  Conclusive autopsy results are pending.#

1 Comment

Posted by Joseph J. Neuschatz M.D.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008 12:32 PM EST

One thing is not clearly understood: surgery is divided between MAJOR and MINOR. There is no such a thing as MINOR ANESTHESIA.

Comments for this article are closed.

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