Jeff Glidewell came across Dr. Christopher Duntsch in 2013 while searching for a neurosurgeon online. His life would be forever changed by his time spent on Duntsch’s operating table. The surgeon Glidewell trusted to correct the pinched nerve in his neck would go on to lose his medical license, receive a life imprisonment sentence, and earn the nickname “Dr. Death.”
Duntsch is the subject of the podcast “Dr. Death” as well as the new drama series of the same name on Peacock. He is the first doctor to be convicted for aggravated assault related to actions taken in the operating room. Two patients died under Duntsch’s watch. Others were left paralyzed or with nerve damage.
Glidewell was Duntsch’s last patient before he was arrested in 2015. ProPublica reports that Duntsch mistook part of Glidewell’s neck muscle for a tumor and stopped operating on him halfway through the procedure. But first, he cut into Glidewell’s vocal cords, punctured an artery, and cut a hole in Glidewell’s esophagus. He used a sponge to stop the bleeding and stitched Glidewell back up without removing the sponge.
How Is Glidewell Doing Today?
After Duntsch horrifically botched Glidewell’s surgery, Dr. Randall Kirby was called in to assess and correct the damage. Glidewell left the hospital that day partially paralyzed and with only one vocal cord. Kirby would go on to report Guntsch to the Texas Medical Board and testify against him in court.
Courthouse News reports that Kirby stated “this has not happened in the United States of America, where you can do such a procedure and have such complications: leave a sponge, knock a hole in his esophagus, take out the recurrent laryngeal nerve, take out the vertebral artery and just leave him there without any attempt to transfer,” in his testimony. He also added that it looked as if Duntsch “tried to decapitate” Glidewell.
As of 2018, Glidewell was still suffering from the effects of Duntsch’s scalpel, five years after the surgery. ProPublica reported that Glidewell has nerve damage in one arm and can only eat small bites of food at a time. Glidewell told the outlet that he fears his story wasn’t enough to change the broken medical system that allowed Duntsch to keep his license for so long.
“Nothing has changed from when I picked Duntsch to do my surgery,” said Glidewell. “The public is still limited to the research they can do on a doctor.”
What Happened to Dr. Death?
Duntsch was criminally charged for just one of his negligent operations, the maiming of Mary Efurd. After Efurd’s surgery, she woke up in excruciating pain. Another surgeon was called in for emergency corrective surgery. D Magazine reports that the second surgeon testified that Edfurd’s spine was full of screw holes and spinal fusion hardware had been left in her muscles.