RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Dr. Michael John Bigg, a radiologist and owner of the Allison Breast Center on Forest Avenue, is accused by the Virginia Board of Medicine of misreading the mammograms at least 18 women - telling them they were fine when they really had cancer.
“Vivacious, always a smile on her face,” is how Lynda Price-Smith de Koning describes her mother Kay Smith, one of those women who recently died.
That smile was the heartbeat of the Smith family.
“She loved to dance, loved music...and just full of life. There’s just a big hole in our hearts now,” adds Kay’s other daughter Susan West.
They both believe their mother would be here right now if she had the proper care and diagnosis. Their 84-year-old mother passed away alone in a hospital bed in April. Her family was unable to be by her side because of the pandemic.
“Someone came out from the hospital. You know, said I’ll take over and that was the last that we saw. We couldn’t go in. That made it even more difficult to be able to be with her,” says Susan.
“It would have helped to have some closure there but we were not allowed in,” adds Lynda.
Kay Smith died from complications of Stage 4 breast cancer. It had spread to her liver. She was a patient of Dr. Michael John Bigg, the owner of the Allison Breast Center.
She had a mammogram every year at Allison - her last one in November of 2017 - 11 months later she started feeling short of breath and tired, so her primary care doctor sent her to get a mammogram somewhere else.
The diagnosis- Stage 4 breast cancer.
“None of us were prepared for this. It was a shock, an absolute shock,” said Lynda.
In this 64 page report, the Virginia Board of Medicine says Dr. Bigg misread Kay’s mammograms and ultrasounds.
Kay is patient “B” in the report. There are 17 other women listed as patients A-R.
“She trusted Doctor Bigg, absolutely. Had he referred her, she would have been the next day to have a second opinion,” said Lynda.
Kay was one of the first women to file a complaint with the board of medicine. She also sued - in the lawsuit alleging several other radiologists looked at her mammograms over the last four years and said the cancer was always there.
“You see the evidence in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, right there in front of you and you think. This didn’t have to happen,” said Susan.
It happened to Maggie Blossfeld from New Kent County. She’s patient A in the medical board report.
“I found a lump on Mother’s Day in May of 2018. I actually lifted up my arm to put on deodorant and I saw a pucker,” said Blossfeld.
The registered nurse knew the signs. So, she went straight to the Allison Breast Center.
“I had been going there for many years. They had all my records. Dr. Bigg told me that he thought it was a lymph node that had migrated, possibly from my armpit area when I was in my teens,” said Blossfeld.
Being a nurse, she’s never heard anything like that. She couldn’t find it on Google either. She went back to her OBGYN- who didn’t like that answer. A biopsy discovered Stage 3 cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes.
The Board of Medicine says Dr. Bigg misread her 2018 mammogram.
“As a nurse, I’m almost embarrassed and then I feel guilty because I should have known something. I guess it never occurred to me that there would be any deficiency...and a place labeled itself as a breast center. I assumed from the name that that would be the best place to go,” said Blossfeld.
“He empowered women, unfortunately in many instances with false information,” said Stephanie Grana. She’s the Smith family attorney. She says since the board suspended Bigg’s license, she’s heard from even more women.
“For other women who are patients of Dr. Bigg and the Allison Breast Center, I would say go get your records, know your history. If you have gotten a mammogram there within the past year, I think you have no choice but to say to yourself ‘I want it done again.‘”
In his response to Kay's Smith's civil lawsuit, Dr. Bigg denied the claims saying that he did not breach the standard of care, and did not "proximately cause" her alleged injuries.
Dr. Bigg has two attorneys. One is handling the civil lawsuit and the other is handling the Board of Medicine case. His attorneys declined our request for an on-camera interview with Dr. Bigg, but his attorney handling the medical board case, Margaret Hardy, did say in an email statement, “The practice has received requests from former patients for copies of their medical records and imaging and is working to respond to those requests in a timely manner that complies with state and federal privacy requirements.”
Dr. Bigg’s hearing with the Medical Board - to determine if he should lose his license permanently - won’t be scheduled until the fall. In the meantime, the Smith family says they know their mother is proud her warnings were heard.
“As long as those doors are closed, the women are being protected,” said Lynda Price-Smith de Koning
Since the report from the medical board came out, more women have come forward, NBC12 is also being inundated with calls and emails from women having trouble getting their medical records.
Grana says you need to continue to try to get your records. If calling the office is not working also try to fax and email: To request your records, email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a fax to 804-285-3245. Here’s another email you can try: email@example.com We are also hearing from a few women who had luck mailing in an official medical release form to the Allison Breast Center office. Records were then released to the new facility administering breast exams. So, also try to mail your request.
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