Ryan Del Grosso had his wisdom teeth pulled in June of 2014.
“Within a day or so of the procedure, he passed out, but I thought nothing of it,” his father, Rene Del Grosso, told the Daily Record, a newspaper in Parsippany, N.J. “Then the same thing happened a few weeks later. And he started losing weight.
“Then he passed out at work, and we were taking multiple trips to the doctor because he had a high fever and chills.”
Ryan Del Grosso was diagnosed with a form of endocarditis — an infection in the lining of the heart.
“Enterococcus faecalis, which literally means “feces.” It’s waste, basically, that my son was exposed to,” Rene Del Grosso told the paper. “It’s beyond belief what this guy was able to do.”
That “guy” Del Grosso is John Vecchione, an oral surgeon whose practice has been linked to several cases of heart infections. According to the Associated Press, a state report, which covered about two years, noted that 15 patients who saw Vecchione and needed intravenous sedation later dealt with infections.
A dozen patients needed heart surgery, the AP reported.
One patient developed complications and died.
Last week, New Jersey’s State Board of Dentistry announced that it has temporarily suspended Vecchione’s license, a suspension he agreed to and one that will remain in place until a hearing.
“We allege that Dr. Vecchione’s repeated deviations from infection control standards, as revealed in three separate inspections, represent a lack of judgment and failure to recognize the grave risk to which he is exposing his patients,” Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in a statement. “This is particularly disturbing given that 15 of his patients have contracted a serious infection after being treated by him.”
Vecchione had previously agreed to “maintain infection control improvements,” the statement said. But an Aug. 19 investigation of his office found “continued deficiencies” in that area.
The problems, state authorities said, included “failure to use sterile water or sterile saline during surgical procedures, improper handling and storage of multi-dose medication vials, non-sterile preparation of instruments, and improper handling and disposal of needles and syringes.”
Steve Lee, director of the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs, said in a statement that “the Board has worked with Dr. Vecchione to address infection control deficiencies identified in his office and has been monitoring the situation to ensure that he is meeting CDC standards, as required by law. Allegations that he continues to fall short of those standards is extremely troubling.
“By obtaining the temporary suspension of Dr. Vecchione’s license, we have stopped him from treating patients until he appears before the Board to address these very serious charges.”
Rene Del Grosso told the Daily Record that his son’s life has significantly changed because of the infection.
The newspaper reports:
“Since this happened, my son has been on 24/7 medications,” Rene Del Grosso said. “He was on a PICC Line (a catheter in his heart), being treated by a nurse. At one point, the doctors [thought] he was having a mini-stroke.”
Eventually, Ryan had surgery to remove the bacteria on his heart valve, although it can still reoccur. He has also suffered permanent hearing loss and severe tinnitus, a constant ringing in his ears that makes sleeping difficult.
“He’s going to need special care his whole life. He’s got a huge scar down his chest and can’t go to sleep until five in the morning most nights. He works at a diner now because it’s one of the few jobs he can do," Rene Del Grosso said. ’The worst part is this didn’t have to happen, this whole thing could have been prevented, and it was luck of the draw my kid and 14 other people were the ones affected.”
Vecchione denied “any and all allegations of wrongdoing” and contends that he has made “diligent efforts” to implement recommended measures, stated an interim consent order, which was filed this week.
An email sent to Vecchione’s attorney was not immediately returned Friday.