Nashville Opera singer claims botched surgery threatened career

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A singer with the Nashville Opera Company is suing the federal government saying a botched childbirth operation at a military post has caused flatulence and incontinence and threatened her career.
Amy Herbst and her husband, former Army Staff Sgt. James Herbst, claim a nurse-midwife at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Ky., caused her injuries during the birth of her son in February 2012 when the nurse performed an episiotomy.
The couple, who live in Cincinnati, claims the nurse made an incision for an episiotomy during the second stage of Herbst's labor, without informing Herbst or getting her consent. During a follow-up visit, another nurse told Herbst attempts to repair the incision had been unsuccessful.
An episiotomy is a cut the doctor or midwife makes in the perineum, which is the area between the vagina and anus. It is done to help deliver the baby or to help prevent the muscles and skin from tearing. They are typically recommended only when the baby is in distress.
A colorectal surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville told her she would need reconstructive surgery to repair the damage, but it "would likely not eliminate the lack of control of flatus and (that she) may require additional surgeries in the future."
Herbst alleges she is unable to work as a professional opera singer "as a result of her incontinence and excessive flatulence."
A message left for a spokeswoman for the hospital was not immediately returned Wednesday. An attorney for Herbst, Greg Sergent of Covington, Ky., declined comment.
The Nashville Opera Company's website indicates Herbst is a mezzo-soprano and was an ensemble member scheduled to perform in its production of Madame Butterfly in October 2012. Her husband was a soldier at Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line at the time but has since left the Army.
Herbst is unable to work as a professional opera singer "as a result of her incontinence and excessive flatulence," the suit alleges.
All future pregnancies would require Cesarean delivery, the suit also alleges, which would pose an added risk to her singing career.
Under the concept of sovereign immunity, in which the government may not be sued without its permission for acts taken on behalf of it, most people have high legal hurdles to cross to bring a lawsuit. Under Federal Tort Claims Act, the government has waived sovereign immunity if a tortious act of a federal employee causes damage.
The couple is seeking $2.5 million in damages and costs. The Herbsts filed the suit Jan. 16 in federal court in Cincinnati.

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