Florida

Woman suing after she alleges knee replacement surgery left legs different lengths

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In an update to a News4JAX I-TEAM investigation, a woman Friday said she received a knee replacement from Dr. David Heekin, who formerly practiced at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside hospital, that left her legs different lengths.

Nearly 350 lawsuits have been filed against Heekin, alleging he caused hundreds of injuries while operating with a neurological condition that caused him to slur his speech and lose his balance. The lawsuits also claim the health system knew about his impairment, but let him continue to perform surgery.

Jacqueline Rivera said she had a knee replacement from Heekin years ago, but when she went back to have a knee replacement on her other leg, she said she noticed something was different about him.

Her first surgery from Heekin, on her right knee, was in the 1990s.

“He was amazing back then. I just don’t know what happened now,” Rivera said.

The scar on her left knee is wider and longer than the scar on her other leg — the result, she said, of a botched procedure by the same doctor two decades later. She said she noticed a change in the doctor’s demeanor during a pre-operation appointment in 2019.

“That’s when I noticed his slurred speech. His eye movement was very slow,” Rivera said.

She said she confronted another health care worker who was in the room for the appointment about it.

“I took my finger and pushed her up against the wall and said, ‘You need to tell me what’s going on with Dr. Heekin now.’ And she was like, ‘There’s nothing. He’s fine. He’s fine,’” Rivera said.

Following the surgery, Rivera said the knee replacement left her legs different lengths, causing her to walk with a limp for a year.

About a year later, she sought a second opinion at another practice. She said that doctor had to perform another surgery.

“I was, just, shocked,” Rivera said.

Now, she’s one of hundreds of patients suing Heekin and Ascension St. Vincent’s.

“It’s just heartbreaking, you know, that we trust these hospitals. We trust our doctors,” Rivera said. “But you’re going to take advantage of your patients in that way?”

She said that three years later, she still has trouble standing for long periods of time.

An attorney for Ascension St. Vincent’s declined to comment Friday. We have not heard back from attorneys for Heekin as of publication of this article.

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