A North Canton woman has accused her gynecologist of spraying her internally with the same chemical that is used in drain cleaner.
"I was the victim of a pretty horrific experience at my gynecologist exam," said Laura, who asked that her last name not be used. Laura says she was undergoing what was supposed to be a routine gynecological exam called a colposcopy performed at her doctor's office at Paragon Health in Summit County.
It's not unusual for a doctor to use vinegar when examining a woman's private parts. Laura says her doctor used a spray bottle, much like the type you would use when ironing. According to a lawsuit, Laura says the word "vinegar" was marked on the side. The lawsuit names Paragon Health associate Dr. John Black and other unnamed employees as defendants.
Laura accuses Black of squirting the liquid into the vaginal canal, saturating the cervix and the surrounding area. Immediately, Laura says she felt horrible and pain and burning.
"It was like an open cut with rubbing alcohol being poured into it," she said.
Black and Paragaon did not return phone calls, but in their responses to the lawsuit, he maintains he sprayed what he thought was a vinegar liquid into her vagina. Paragon denies virtually all other allegations in the lawsuit.
As it turns out, the solution wasn't diluted vinegar. Laura and her husband Paul say the solution contained the chemical potassium hydroxide, the same chemical that's used in drain cleaner to unclog drains and pipes.
"It soaks in and continues to soak in and burns from the inside out. It's not meant to go inside anyone's body," said Paul, who has demonstrated outside Paragon's offices with signs alleging Paragon permanently injured his wife by burning her private parts.
Cleveland State chemistry professor David Ball showed Channel 3 News just how caustic a chemical potassium hydroxide is. He placed a partial hot dog into a container of potassium hydroxide and within minutes, the hot dog began falling apart. "It literally breaks up the skin. It decomposes the skin," said Ball.
Black suspected something went terribly wrong, according to the lawsuit. He placed a tiny amount of the solution used on Laura into a cup. Medical records say the doctor "tasted it on the tip of his tongue which immediately started to burn."
Black is accused of saying "I'm breaking all the rules" and proceeding to irrigate the burn area with three bottles of saline solution. He also applied a cream inside her to numb the pain.
But there was another problem. The couple says the doctor wasn't wearing gloves.
"He puts an ungloved dirty finger inside her and rubs a numbing cream inside her. It's disgusting," Paul said.
Laura says she wasn't sure what was happening when the doctor told her "I hope you're not offended. I just want to let you know I've been married forever, and I don't have any diseases."
Within a couple hours of Laura leaving Paragon's offices, a Paragon doctor phoned her instructing her to go to Akron General Hospital's emergency room immediately.
The news only got worse. According to hospital records, a plastic bottle cap was found behind her cervix. The couple also says Paragon misinformed the hospital about the pH level of the liquid placed inside Laura, claiming it was a harmless 7.5, but it was actually 12 or greater.
"I don't know of anything in the body that has a pH of 12 or greater. It would be damaging to the body," Ball said.
When Channel 3 News Investigator Tom Meyer showed up at Paragon's office, a woman who refused to identify herself prevented Meyer from going inside and took his number. No one at the office contacted Channel 3.
Laura says her injuries prevent her from having intimate relations with her husband. She says she experiences ongoing, irregular bleeding, and she can't enjoy simple pleasures like swimming with her two children.
The couple says Paragon never contacted poison control.
"He (the doctor) suspected what the chemical was, so he should have called poison control," said Paul.
The lawsuit alleges that Paragon failed to properly train their employees as to the understanding of the haards associated with potassium hydroxide, and their employees were not trained to mitigate potential problems associated with exposure to the hazardous chemical.
They say Paragon failed to have OSHA-required documents to help them deal with a chemcial emergency.
Laura and Paul say they were hoping to have more children, but now she believes she'll need a hysterectomy.
"This a scenario that no woman would ever, ever imagine," she said.