As a teenager, Jonathan Briese had first-aid training, both as an Eagle Scout and a volunteer Fairfax County firefighter. His father is a paramedic and author of textbooks on emergency response. His brother is a firefighter and paramedic.
But when Briese suffered an allergic reaction in a McLean doctor's office last year, he didn't get the basic lifesaving help he needed until paramedics arrived, his family said. Within an hour, the promising 20-year-old cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy was dead.
It was supposed to be a simple procedure -- outpatient laser hair removal. He'd undergone one treatment. His father had checked out the clinic. "It was a no-brainer," said Garry Briese, Jonathan's father. But when he was given a combination of a pain reliver, a relaxant and an anesthetic cream, something went wrong.
Even worse, the Brieses claim, only one doctor -- and no nurses or other support staff -- was around to help in a moment of crisis. Late last week, the Brieses filed a lawsuit against the clinic's owners, plastic surgeons Csaba L. Magassy and B. Scott Teunis, and the doctor who was to perform the removal, James J. Donohue IV. The suit alleges wrongful death, negligent hiring and supervision of Donohue, and false advertising in the clinic's claims that Magassy would supervise and direct the procedure.
Magassy and Donohue yesterday expressed regret over Briese's death. Teunis did not return a phone message seeking comment.
"I did the best I could and called 911 when it happened," Donohue said. "I guess I'll just explain that in court. I never had anything like this happen."
Magassy said he was out of the country when the incident occurred, but that "full resuscitation equipment was available in the office. . . . I wish I would have been there to help the kid."
In addition to making Eagle Scout at 15 and working as a volunteer firefighter, he was on the swim team and involved in student conflict mediation at Lake Braddock High School in Burke.
At the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., he played on the lacrosse team, marched with the drill team and helped train and supervise younger cadets. The academy plans to name a leadership award after him. More than 1,000 people attended his burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Jonathan Briese and his older brother, Oren, grew up around public servants. Their father was a firefighter in Florida, and the family moved to Fairfax County in 1985 when Garry Briese was hired as executive director of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Friends teased Briese about his hairy back, and he was self-conscious about it, his parents said. When he learned of laser hair removal, he researched it, then began visiting doctor's offices.
In December 1999, he visited the McLean offices of Plastic Surgery Associates, Magassy and Teunis's firm.
After spending about 40 minutes at Plastic Surgery Associates, he called home and said it looked good. He was planning to have his first treatment later that afternoon.
Briese wasn't given any drugs on his first visit, his father said. When he came home, "he was ecstatic. He had a clear back." He made another appointment for February 2000, on a weekend when he'd be home from the academy.
After having lunch with his father on Feb. 19, he went back to Plastic Surgery Associates. The lawsuit alleges that Donohue was the only doctor present and that he sent the only other staffer -- a nurse -- home. The doctor's notes say that he gave Briese Xanax, a relaxant, and Lortab, a pain reliever, the lawsuit claims.
While Donohue was applying an anesthetic cream, he noticed Briese lower his head and begin to snore before losing consciousness. The lawsuit alleges that Briese's breathing slowed, that he vomited and that Donohue tried to clear his airway before leaving the room to call 911. The Brieses claim no CPR or other lifesaving treatment was administered by the doctor.
Paramedics arrived within minutes and began CPR, intravenous and cardiac treatment, and then rushed Briese to Inova Fairfax Hospital. Twelve minutes after he arrived there, he was dead.
The medical examiner ruled that Briese had died of anaphylaxis, or an allergic reaction.
Magassy, a board-certified plastic surgeon, said that his office had not had a death in 28 years, but that "this really wasn't us." He said Donohue was renting space from his firm.
"I don't blame the parents for suing," Magassy said. "I'd sue, too."