A 61-year-old Army veteran is suing the U.S. government for $10 million, claiming negligent care resulted in severe frostbite on his penis, leading to its partial amputation.
Michael D. Nash of Louisville, Kentucky, filed suit in federal court Monday. He is asking for damages for what his lawyer calls "significant mental and emotional distress and trauma as a result of his injuries."
In October 2010, Nash underwent surgery at the VA Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Doctors were removing and replacing a malfunctioning penile implant. After the surgery, according to court documents, a nurse applied ice packs to Nash's penis to reduce pain and swelling.
The ice packs remained on Nash's penis for 19 straight hours, "in violation of the standard of care," according to the lawsuit. As a result, Nash's penis was severely frostbitten, which led to gangrene.
According to Nash's attorney, Larry Jones, his client was on heavy pain medicine at the time and unable to question the nurse. Nash was discharged from the hospital even though he complained of severe pain, Jones said.
Two weeks later, surgeons performed a partial penectomy, removing a significant part of Nash's penis.
"When you take away a man's manhood, it affects him in ways you can't imagine," Jones said. Nash, who served in the Army in the 1960s, now needs a catheter and has no sexual function, he said. Eventually, he will need reconstructive surgery.
Typically, after penile implant surgery, ice would be applied to the groin area only with many layers of gauze in between, said Dr. Bruce Kava, associate professor of clinical urology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "This is unusual," he said.
He said it would also be unusual that a patient would be unable to feel the ice's effects.
According to experts, after penile implant surgery, the standard of care is to keep an ice pack on the swollen area 2-4 hours, then take it off for the same amount of time and repeat if necessary.
The Department of Veterans Affairs declined comment, referring questions to the U.S. Attorney's office. The office did not immediately respond to requests for comment from CNN.