I could have appended this story to American laryngologist Chevalier Jackson in a follow-up, but I decided to give Charles Gaal, Jr., a post of his own. If Jackson were alive to treat him, Gaal might have lived a few years longer. Here's what happened.
Gaal was a U.S. Air Force pilot, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, a piano player, a ham radio operator, father of 2, and a devoted husband for 50 years. Born in New York, the Gaal had been stationed in Germany, Japan, Puerto Rico, and Scotland before settling in Florida. When the 90-year-old had trouble with the dentures in his bottom jaw in October 2006, he sought the help of Winter Park dentist Dr. Wesley Meyers. In the process of installing dental implants, Meyers and his staff dropped a tiny screwdriver down Gaal's throat. A colonoscopy was required to remove the object from his large intestine. Nevertheless, Gaal returned to Meyers in May 2007 when his denture made his mouth sore. This time Meyers dropped a miniature torque wrench down the patient's throat. Although the dentist attempted to perform the Heimlich maneuver, x-rays taken later that day at the hospital showed that the wrench had been inhaled and was lodged in his lung. Gaal underwent surgery, but never fully recovered and died the following month.
Meyers was fined a total of $27,000 by the Florida Board of Dentistry and prohibited from performing more dental-implant procedures until he had further training. The 69-year-old, who closed his dental practice of 30 years last summer, voluntarily surrendered his license to the board last week. In 2010, Gaal's son and daughter won a civil judgment against Meyers for an undisclosed amount. They issued a statement through their attorney: "With today's decision, the board has demonstrated that it is committed to protecting the people of Florida and Mr. Gaal's family finds comfort in the fact that his death was not in vain."