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Queens woman in coma after botched cancer treatment, family alleges in court papers

2019-08-12

Jing Chen (Obtained by New York Daily News)

A Queens woman with a bright future is now lying in a coma after a procedure aimed at ridding her body of a rare cancer almost killed her, court papers filed by the woman’s family claim.

The painful medical tale of Jing Chen, 33, began in 2015 when she underwent chemotherapy and radiation after being diagnosed with thymoma, a rare cancer that attacks the thymus gland.

At first, it seemed as if her recovery would be swift — her cancer appeared to be in remission and Chen was hopeful she’d be able to resume the life she’d built for herself.

A SUNY-Albany journalism grad, Chen worked as a reporter for the London-based niche publication IHS Markit. She lived East Elmhurst in an apartment she bought for her mother in 2016.

But Chen did not get to go back to her promising life. Four years after first being treated for cancer, she lays in a semi-conscious state at Mount Sinai Hospital on the Upper East Side and is tended to by her mother Xiu Qin Jiang, who’s been at odds with hospital staff for months and recently filed legal papers in Manhattan Supreme Court petitioning a judge to give her unrestricted access to her daughter.

Jing’s brother Fen Yi Chen, 31, told The Daily News that hospital staff began restricting their mother’s visitation time after she tried to remove a “bite block” from Jing’s mouth.

“She wanted to protect her teeth,” Fen said. “It only puts pressure on the teeth in the front. Jing has lost four teeth because of it.”

Fen and his family claim in their legal filing that the bite block is not intended for long-term use.

But it is the least of his sister’s travails.

During her recovery from her chemo and radiation treatments, an oncologist thought Jing’s cancer was coming back. The doctor administered immunotherapy with a drug called Keytruda — despite the potential side effects it can have for people, who, like Chen, have autoimmune disorders, the court papers state.

Taking the drug caused Chen to develop “respiratory distress,” which eventually led doctors to administer plasmapheresis, a therapy aimed at removing harmful antibodies from the bloodstream.

Jing Chen
Jing Chen (Obtained by New York Daily News)

The procedure involved inserting a “large-caliber catheter … deep into Jing’s internal jugular vein,” the legal documents claim. In May, the original catheter was removed and a new one inserted.

“This is when the serious problem began,” the court petition states.

“It’s supposed to go into the vein. It’s not supposed to go through the vein,” Fen explained.

The punctured vein caused internal bleeding, and attempts to repair the damage led to cardiac arrest and a loss of oxygen to her brain for more than 10 minutes, the family claims.

To make matters worse, Fen said staff was not fully prepared for the procedure.

“The physician who spoke with the family afterwards apologized for ‘not being fully prepared’ to deal with the possible consequences, and for ‘not having adequate blood available,’” the court documents state.

Mount Sinai spokeswoman Lucia Lee declined to comment on the situation, but noted that the case is scheduled to go before a judge on Aug. 18.

“Mount Sinai doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but we believe the claim is without merit," she said.

Doctors at Mount Sinai have not offered the family much hope, Fen said.

“They keep saying it’s irreversible,” he said. “That she can be in this position for the rest of her life.”