ADA, Okla. (KXII) - It's been two years since Mary Hurst's husband, Harold, had surgery at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada.
Harold was stabbed in the late 1990s working a job as a security guard. The wound left him with abdominal hernias. Doctors installed sheets of mesh to stop the hernias, but in 2015 the mesh became infected and needed to be removed.
The Hurst's live in Alvado, Texas, but drove two and half hours to Ada because Harold is Native American, and wanted to have the surgery at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center.
But Mary says that's where the problems began.
"There was so many red flags that went up," Mary said.
Mary says Dr. Matthew McTague told her the surgery should take four to six hours. He was done in two.
"He said he took all the infected mesh out, except for a bit little on the sides because it would be like cutting through concrete," Mary said. "When she took the bandages off I wanted to die."
Mary says she was also upset about how her husband was sent home.
"I told her I was not comfortable with taking him home like this. I had no education in anything like this," she said.
Harold was home for two days when Mary says the wound started to look infected again.
When she contacted Dr. McTague, she was told to increase bandages to three times a day, Mary said.
That same afternoon Harold's small intestine fell out of his body.
"They CareFlighted him to Dallas Methodist. At that point he was in a coma for seven days," Mary said, "And had three surgeries to correct the surgery that was done here."
Harold spent a week in a coma, but survived.
After several failed attempts at getting a response from the hospital's Risk Management office, Mary contacted attorney Dale Rex.
"I've never dealt with a case where a person's inside ended up on their outside before. This is not a normal occurrence," Rex said.
Rex says the Hursts wanted to file suit against the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center and Dr. McTague.
But because of the Federal Tort Claims Act, neither the hospital nor the doctor can be held responsible.
"There's a long standing legal doctrine that says you cannot sue the government," Rex said, "unless the government says you can sue it."
The Chickasaw Nation Medical Center is a subsidiary of the Indian Health Service, a federally funded agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. It's responsible for providing health services to American Indians.
"In 1946, they decided to pass the Federal Tort Claim Act to kind of create a way for most of these bills of redress to go somewhere else," Rex said,"to go through our court system."
Rex says victims have two years from the time they learn about an incident to file a Tort claim. He says once the federal government declines a victim money for wrongdoing, they have a year to file suit. If the government never responds, victims can file suit after six months.
The Hursts filed and were denied their claim before the six month period, now they're suing the government.
"The case of Harold and Mary Hurst vs. the United States is currently set for trial on July 31," Rex said.
The Hursts are asking for millions in damages. If they win, whatever damages awarded won't be paid through malpractice insurance like other hospitals. Instead, the American taxpayer would foot the bill.
Mary and her daughter agree Dr. McTague and the hospital should be held responsible.
"Laws need to change to lift that Tort," Mary said.
"Honestly it's just not fair to the taxpayers," Lopez said.
When we asked to talk to someone at the Chickasaw Nation about this story we were sent this statement:
"Our commitment to providing quality care is the centerpiece of our mission. While we are unable to comment on the specifics of pending litigation, our hearts and prayers are with the family."
The day after part one of this story aired, we were sent this email which we were told was distributed to all Chickasaw Nation Medical Center employees.
"Some of you may have seen a story that aired on KXII last night about the Chickasaw Nation Department of Health. Our commitment to providing quality care is the centerpiece of our mission. While we are unable to comment on the specifics of pending litigation, our hearts and prayers are with the family.
As you know, we live our mission every day. You know that quality care is our highest priority and we take patient care very seriously.
We are proud of the work you do for the Chickasaw Nation and particularly the department of health. Because of your service and diligence, we have a longstanding record of providing excellent health care on a consistent basis with more than 550,000 patient visits annually.
Thank you for your unwavering commitment to providing the highest quality health care possible. We will continue to review policies, procedures and personnel performance, focused on providing dependable health care services that are worthy of the trust our patients place in us on a daily basis."
Mary Hurst says they plan to continue to fight for justice for what happened to Harold.
"Laws need to change. We can't continue to have this happen."