A stroke suffered during childbirth left Bonnie Shi unable to lift her young children, robbed of her English and barely able to walk.
She was once a vivacious young mother with big plans. Now she lives a painful and difficult life.
A looming lawsuit and the confidential settlement that comes with it would have ensured the public were kept in the dark about what happened to Bonnie. But she was intent on telling her story before it was buried for good, in the hope a more transparent medical system will be changed for the better.
In March 2014 Bonnie delivered her second child at the Werribee Mercy Hospital near Melbourne. During the scheduled caesarean, Bonnie suffered a massive haemorrhage and her blood pressure dropped to perilous levels. Her doctor administered two medications — ergometrine and prostaglandin — in an attempt counteract this.
Medical advice obtained by her lawyers determined the medication was administered incorrectly — essentially, it said, too fast and too much — and Bonnie suffered a massive stroke that left the right side of her body in severe atrophy. She needed six months in physiotherapy to walk again.
The stroke’s damage to Bonnie’s brain also left her no longer able to speak English, which she once spoke fluently, having gained a degree in business management.
“I can’t even come up with a full sentence in English. And when I figure something, like figure a word out in my mind, it comes out different when I speak,” Bonnie said.
Bonnie and her husband York had no way of knowing their obstetrician had been quietly settling medical negligence claims by women he treated every year, on average, for more than a decade.
Doctor denies giving wrong dose
Bonnie’s obstetrician was Claude Calandra, who told 7.30 he did not deliver the wrong dose of ergometrine.
“These are standard drugs which we give, these were not overdosed in any way whatsoever, that I can swear to anyone who says that,” Dr Calandra said.
When asked if he thought he was at fault in any way, he replied: “Not at all, 100 per cent, and I’ll stand by what I did,” he said.
“It is distressing for all of us when there is an adverse outcome.
“Sometimes there is no answer. Like this poor patient Mrs Shi. It is heartbreaking. But how can I predict it?
“It is a fact of life, it is absolutely distressing. But we have to cope with it. And I do cope with it.”
‘Of course I feel targeted, but I don’t mind’
In February this year 7.30 aired a story about a cluster of baby deaths in Bacchus Marsh and discovered Dr Calandra among the staff at the hospital.
Although Dr Calandra was not directly linked to the baby deaths at Bacchus Marsh, 7.30 uncovered an extensive history of lawsuits against the obstetrician and gynaecologist, some 14 writs filed in just 15 years at hospitals across Melbourne’s west.
Mothers of children claiming hypoxic brain injury and stillbirth at the hands of Dr Calandra came forward to 7.30.
Former patient Tracey Danskin-Anthony was shocked to learn the doctor was still practising.
“I really do not understand why they keep him practising. He shouldn’t be allowed,” she said.