'My baby felt everything for 10 days': Our I-Team uncovered a string of deaths under a doctor's care

Published: Aug. 22, 2019 at 5:17 PM EDT
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Thursday, Aug. 22nd, 2019

News 12 at 6 O'Clock/NBC at 7

FORT GORDON, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A misdiagnosis lead to the death of an unborn child. The doctor was a federal contractor paid with tax dollars. Our I-Team uncovered a string of deaths under his care.

Cora Bryan arms feel as empty as her heart.

"My world crushed. I cried because I was losing a baby," she said.

Everything became a blur when she heard the word "ectopic" from a doctor at Eisenhower Army Medical Center.

"My husband, I've never seen him cry," Bryan said. "He broke down and cried and I'm sitting there and I'm like that hurts. They just said it like it was it was whatever."

An ectopic, or tubular pregnancy, is when a fertilized egg attaches itself in a place other than inside the uterus. As the baby grows, so does the risk of rupture. That could lead to internal bleeding and even death.

The next day, Bryan got a shot of Methotrexate.

"It's a chemo drug used to kill growing cells, and it was to kill and break down the baby in the tube," Bryan said.

Liz Owens: "So soon as you had that shot, did you start miscarrying? Cora Bryan: "No. I became very ill. I couldn't hold anything down. I couldn't eat. My heart felt weird. Everything just felt weird like something in my head goes like something's wrong. So I went to the ER and I got another ultrasound and the lady's face dropped. The doctor comes in and there is no expression on his face and says, 'You look like you're pregnant and it's in the uterus.'" Liz Owens: "After you had the shot?" Cora Bryan: "After I had the shot. My world came crashing down. How do you do that?"

She began to miscarry her unborn baby on October 31.

"My baby felt everything for 10 days," Bryan said.

"My husband and I are like, 'We trusted you.' We were ignorant to the situation because we're not doctors. We don't know how to look at ultrasound. We don't know [how to] read this, we don't know how to read that."

Bryan isn't the first to accuse the doctor of making a fatal mistake. Dr. Robert Zabenko is a contractor for the federal government. Our I-Team dug into his history and uncovered pattern of problems wherever he practices.

The North Carolina Medical Board yanked his license after learning he was having sex with a patient at Fort Bragg. He left and came here to work at MCG, but he later voluntarily surrendered his license there. We don't know why. Zabenko returned to Fort Bragg where a newborn died in his care. The same year, he packed up and moved to North Dakota to work on an Indian Reservation. A family there accused him of negligence and recklessness which lead to the death of young mother shortly after birth. Another family also accused him of negligence which lead to the of a newborn. Zabenko left there to come back to Augusta this time to work at Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon.

A spokesperson for Eisenhower told our I-Team they, too, have now fired Zabenko. However, he is still listed as a federal contractor with the government, which means he can move on to the next city to practice medicine and tax dollars will pay his salary. Our I-Team tried to find Zabenko, but it appears he no longer lives at his listed addresses.

"I want justice for all of the women all of the women out there because it is not fair," Bryan said.

She holds onto hope that maybe one day the hole inside her heart will begin to heal. She also hopes her story will serve as a warning to other soon to be mothers.

Eisenhower Army Medical Center sent our I-Team this statement:

"On behalf of the entire staff I want to express our deepest sympathies to the patient and her family for the outcome of her medical experience at Eisenhower Army Medical Center. This isolated experience does not represent the exceptional level of care Eisenhower routinely provides to our patients. Shortly after learning this outcome, we initiated a quality management investigation to identify exactly what happened and the corrective actions to prevent recurrence. That process continues. The physician involved is no longer employed at Eisenhower/U.S. Army."

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