What Happened to Suki...and What Happened to Me: a Timeline
A State of Disgrace: Is the TBVME Really Protecting the Public?
Monday, February 18, 2013
The Allegations Against Edward J. Nichols, DVM, Crestway Animal Clinic, San Antonio, Texas
On December 7, 1999, I filed a 54-page complaint against Edward J. Nichols DVM of Crestway Animal Clinic with the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners alleging numerous violations of the statutes of the Texas Veterinary Practice Act with regard to what happened to Suki, with the medical records attached that you see here. These medical records came from Nichols and Crestway (just in case anybody is saying otherwise)
On August 17, 2000, an informal conference was held in Austin, attended by only ONE actual board member Martin E. Garcia, DVM, the board secretary. The other committee members present were not members of the six-vet, three-layperson board, but were only members of the Board staff. None of the committee members were veterinarians except the one vet Garcia.
This is especially important when people start flinging around phrases like "the Board dismissed the complaint."
The committee that attended that informal conference had NO authority to decide the outcome of a complaint. If any vet is saying that "the Board" heard this complaint, or that "the Board" dismissed this complaint, they are WRONG. The other five veterinarians of the Texas Board were NOT in that conference and NEVER voted or in any way decided the outcome of this complaint. There was no Board hearing in this case AT ANY TIME (just in case anybody is saying otherwise).
No other board vets besides Garcia attended the meeting. No other vets attended that meeting except Nichols. Garcia and Nichols sat across the table from each other at that meeting, eye to eye. Garcia basically ignored all of my input except to ask me questions such as what I was feeding Suki, and whether I knew the average lifespan of a cat. In other words, based on how Garcia conducted this meeting, Suki's age seemed to be the most important factor - not how Nichols treated her. I was under the impression that the statutes of the Veterinary Licensing Act were supposed to apply to the VET, not the PET. Garcia's behavior in that conference was disgraceful as he refused to pay any attention to the WRITTEN EVIDENCE and instead chose to listen to Ed Nichols' very interesting "explanations" of what "really" happened.
Suki's suffering apparently meant NOTHING to Nichols, who left her lying in a cage, dying, at Crestway Animal Hellhole for HOURS after TWO unauthorized procedures (dental surgery and anesthesia) without bothering to inform me of her true condition or to even inform me what he HAD ALREADY DONE TO HER. There is NOTHING on the record to indicate he EVER made any attempt to contact me in ANY WAY AT ANY TIME. She desperately needed IV fluids, potassium, and treatment for anemia -- and Nichols did NOT give those treatments to her and NEVER consulted me about her treatment prior to the dental surgery and the anesthesia. (When I went to pick Suki up after attempting by phone to find out EXACTLY what had been done to her during which time Nichols NEVER came to the phone, Nichols reached across the table, took my hands, and with suspiciously phony-looking tears in his eyes, said, "You, my friend, have done everything you can do." It was a bizarre performance, considering that HE HIMSELF did NOT to give her the necessary IV fluids, did NOT give her the necessary potassium, and did NOT do presurgical labwork or pre-anesthetic evaluation before sticking a dying Suki in an induction box and gassing her without my knowledge or consent. If I were the type to be "impressed" by this vet's "tears and sympathy," I might have bought into his little script. But his provable lack of treatment of Suki was the dead giveaway to me that there was something that seemed hugely phony about that whole scene. The records PROVE what he did TO Suki and what he did NOT do FOR her. Period. To then try to shift the responsibility to me that I had done "everything" when it was CLEAR that everything was NOT done--not even the most BASIC things like IV fluids and potassium that any first-year vet student would have known to do-- was beyond sickening and horrifying.)
At this joke of a informal conference held in Austin, I was denied my request to have legal representation present, nor could I bring anyone else to witness what went on. Unlike actual Board hearings which can be attended by the public, these informal conferences are behind closed doors, no recording of it is allowed, and no public record is kept of the proceedings. Despite attempts to keep these proceedings secret, they actually have no jurisdiction to enforce secrecy (the "confidentiality" statute applies only the board and staff, NOT to citizens who have the right to inform other citizens of travesties like this), so that is why I have chosen to go public with what goes on behind closed doors. As much as some vets and their lawyers would dearly love to be able to enforce this confidentiality statute, the fact is - THEY CAN'T. That statute does NOT apply to citizens, and they know it. But I have no doubt they will continue to try to silence us from sharing our experiences with this obscenely unfair system that ignores evidence as the board continues to protect vets at the risk of our animals' safety.
Martin Garcia, the board secretary, dismissed this complaint out of hand, but could only do so after IGNORING ALL OF THE EVIDENCE -- lab work and patient chart which indicated a "v. dehydrated" cat in renal failure that Nichols did NOT give IV fluids to AT ANY TIME (attempting repeatedly to blame me when he could not show ANY proof of ANY time that I refused Suki ANYTHING, nor could he show proof of consent for surgery or anesthesia). Nichols' various versions of events repeatedly collided in midair. For example, when EXACTLY on the timeline of events did I "refuse" proper treatment but somehow "approve" outrageous treatments like anesthesia and dental surgery -- not even Ed Nichols could explain those inconsistencies. On the day he did what he did to Suki, there was NEVER at any time, A SINGLE CONVERSATION between Nichols and me PRIOR to his performing unauthorized procedures, nor is there even ONE NOTE of any conversation AFTERWARDS; when asked when he had obtained permission to perform these procedures, he hid behind his mother/receptionist, claiming I had told her that "they" could do whatever they "felt" was necessary. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER did I say any such thing. I would have NEVER given such a blanket, generalized, vague approval for ANYBODY to do whatever they wanted to this cat, no matter WHO they were, least of all this quack.
The most sickening thing about all of this is that Nichols had NO proof of anything he was saying, and I had ALL THE PROOF of everything he had done WRONG to Suki. And Garcia sat there like the ignorant bohunk that he is, and did NOTHING to enforce the statutes of the veterinary profession.
Under NO circumstances would I have EVER given permission to put Suki under anesthesia in that condition (i.e., dying). Nichols DID IT. HE himself put Suki under anesthesia without a single conversation with me to even bother to get my permission for such a highly questionable procedure (my expert from A&M made it very clear that Suki was NOT a candidate for anesthesia). Does this sound like something a reputable vet should do when faced with a pet who is actually DYING - just go ahead and do whatever they "feel" is necessary, no matter how WRONG? Medical evidence, the owner's wishes, the owner's input, the owner's informed consent, the standard of care, and even his own records be damned.
I don't know how to make this any clearer, but let me try:
Suki did not belong to Ed Nichols. Suki belonged to ME. She was MY cat. And he had absolutely no right, reason, or permission to do anything he did to her on April 19, 1999, least of all stick her in an induction box and gas her while she was dying, and then inject her with one milligram of dexamethasone. ED NICHOLS INJECTED SUKI WITH STEROID. Injected one mg of dexamethasone into a cat in multiple organ shutdown and renal failure. And almost 20 years old at the time. There are no words to describe this insanity.
If Suki hadn't lived long enough to be seen by second opinion vets, I wouldn't have known what had really happened to her. I would have had to take Little Eddie's word for everything, and let me tell you - knowing what I know now, that would have been a very, VERY bad thing to do considering what the second opinion vets did to properly treat Suki. Thank God my instincts kicked in in time to stop trusting Ed Nichols and get Suki to vets who immediately gave her IV fluids, potassium, and Epogen and did NOT inject her with dexamethasone and Depo-Medrol like Nichols had been doing. I can find NO medical backup for the amount and/or type of steroids that Nichols was injecting into Suki. I simply trusted him, and it was the very biggest and worst mistake of my life to trust this creep. I would give everything I own to be able to go back in time and get Suki safely away from this miserable excuse for a "doctor." It will haunt me forever that I trusted this freak.
In the conference, without any explanation to me other than "given Suki's age," Garcia dismissed the complaint in that meeting despite all the evidence of alleged violations of the Professional Standard of Humane Treatment, along with provable evidence of recordkeeping violations. Nichols' chart on Suki were shameful - there was absolutely NO RECORD of her renal failure, her anemia, her hypokalemia, her hyperphosphatemia, and God knows what else my cat suffered from but Nichols could not see fit to spend ONE MINUTE recording those disorders on her chart. THAT ALONE IS A VIOLATION OF THE TEXAS VETERINARY PRACTICE ACT, NEVER MIND ALL OF THE OTHER THINGS THE CHART INDICATES THAT NICHOLS DID TO SUKI AND DID NOT DO FOR HER.
And yet Garcia wouldn't budge, would NOT, under any circumstances, enforce even the recordkeeping statutes on Nichols. Why?
In this sick joke of a conference, I watched as Garcia -- who is every bit as arrogant as Nichols, if that's possible -- continued to look the other way as the evidence mounted against his colleague sitting across from him, and there was NOTHING I could do about it except watch in horror as it became apparent that this sick freak was going to get away with EVERYTHING thanks to Garcia, who was the ONLY person in that room with the authority to hold Nichols accountable. The members of the committee were powerless to stop him, either. Without the board present (I was told that the board does not attend informal conferences), Suki and I were at the mercy of a stupid, ignorant, incompetent board secretary who ran the show and had zero conscience about what he was doing. Martin Garcia knew EXACTLY what he was doing when he dismissed this complaint. The evidence against N was overwhelming, and yet he let him go.
Even with all of the HARD EVIDENCE, including Nichols' own written response to the investigators, which defies description as to the utter stupidity of this so-called "doctor," Nichols walked as a result of Garcia's shameful incompetence as a vet incapable of evaluating medical evidence. (Do YOU want a vet who doesn't seem to know what anesthesia really is and tries to get others to buy into HIS unique definition? HALOTHANE IS AN ANESTHETIC AGENT. PERIOD. If a vet does not know what an anesthetic agent really is, he needs to go back to school asap. Better yet - find another profession.)
My repeated attempts failed over the next three years to get this case reopened and have the evidence evaluated by a competent vet who knew that Nichols had indeed put Suki under anesthesia by sheer virtue of the fact that he used an anesthetic agent (despite his constant attempts to rewrite history). Nichols himself wrote the word "under" prior to the chemical formulation of halothane and nitrous oxide. IT IS ON HER CHART. I could get no one in Austin to listen to me with regard to the complete travesty that occurred with the dismissal of this complaint by ONE VET, NOT THE BOARD.
With all of this, readers can decide for themselves if they believe this system was fair. Having witnessed it firsthand, I can tell you it is NOT.
When reading the documents below, keep in mind:
There was never a Board hearing in this case. If anyone refers to a Board hearing in the case of the Texas Board investigating Ed Nichols, those individuals are either ignorant as to the procedures of the board or they are outright LYING. An informal conference is NOT a hearing. Hearings are open to the public and contain a transcript of the proceedings just like a trial. The farce that "exonerated" Ed Nichols was a closed door, secret travesty that took place off the record and allowed ONE VET to ignore all of the evidence here without accountability to anyone.
The system in Texas at that time allowed this ONE arrogant and ignorant vet, Martin Garcia of Raymondville, Texas, to dismiss this complaint behind closed doors at the informal conference level, without benefit of any input by any other vet, either on or off the vet board. Garcia completely ignored ALL evidence, including PROVABLE and DISGRACEFUL recordkeeping violations according to their own statute and PROVABLE and DISGRACEFUL violations of the standard of care in Nichols' treatment of Suki according to our expert vet from A&M. Putting a cat like Suki under anesthesia while she was dying without presurgical labwork or pre-anesthetic evaluation, and not giving her IV fluids despite severe dehydration, and not being able to show any proof of consent or post-surgical instructions to the owner, is in NO WAY adherence to the standard of care. It is a horror show that I have to live with forever, knowing what I know now -- thanks to my veterinary experts who outlined the numerous ways in which Nichols breached the standard of care in both his actions and inactions. As grateful as I am to my experts who outlined in great detail how many things Nichols did WRONG, I have to live with that horrifying new knowledge for the rest of my life, knowing what Suki endured while I cluelessly trusted this freak and he enjoyed every minute of that trust.
Edward J Nichols of Crestway Animal Clinic is without a doubt the WORST veterinarian I have ever had the misfortune to meet (despite his ability to squeeze out some convenient tears when the records PROVE exactly WHAT he did and WHEN he did it) and would never, under any circumstances, recommend ANYBODY to take their pets to him for ANY REASON. (On top of everything else, Ed Nichols and his lawyer Ann Comerio sued me for telling what he did, attempting to get a permanent injunction to silence me and dismantle my web site - at which I am happy to report that they failed miserably.)
If you have any doubts about what I'm saying, I urge you to read Suki's Story for additional details of Nichols' "care," and What Happened to Suki...and What Happened to Me," a timeline of what Nichols did first to Suki and her life, and then to me and my life.
And should this SOB be stupid enough to come after me again in ANY way, I will fight this sorry sack AGAIN. He got ONE CHANCE to silence me and HE FAILED. The next time I will fight even louder and longer so there is no place for him to hide. I will NEVER be silenced by this sick freak OR his hideous lawyer.
NEVER will Ed Nichols EVER intimidate me into silence. Ed Nichols is THROUGH causing me one more moment of grief, pain, or loss while blaming ME for what HE did. His actions over the past nine years have shown him to be the cretin that I always knew him to be from April 19, 1999, when he put my dying, dehydrated cat into a box and gassed her without ONE SYLLABLE to me about her true condition and what he did to her -- and then lectured me on the word "natural" afterwards. I have a word for him to remember: COWARD. That word doesn't even begin to cover what Nichols is. He has hidden behind his mother, his staff, the sheriff's department, the vet he bought Crestway from, the "Board," and ultimately a hideous lawyer -- all attesting to the type of tactics this conscience-free creep will stoop to in order to portray himself as the "real" victim when his own records PROVE what HE did to Suki, and when, where, and how.
There simply aren't enough words to describe the unending nightmare that is Ed Nichols. it sickens me to my very soul that I ever met him.
One good thing came out of this mess in Austin where Garcia showed his true colors by dismissing the complaint. Thanks to Suki's case and my testimony to the Sunset Commission in 2004, there are now new laws in place so that ONE VET can NEVER have complete control over the outcome of a complaint, as what happened here. After my testimony, TWO vets and a public member were put in place on the committee, so if one vet chooses to ignore all the evidence, there is a second vet to possibly counteract that. It is my only comfort after nine years of this never-ending nightmare - that maybe even one other companion animal was helped because of Suki.
For that reason, I will spend the rest of my life helping to educate fellow pet guardians about ways to protect their pets from similar treatment, and helping them navigate through the travesty that is the complaint review process of the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. I will never stop fighting for ways to make the process more equitable so that others have a fighting chance to obtain accountability for acts of veterinary malpractice, incompetence, negligence and abuse. If Suki and I save ONE pet as a result of these nine years of fighting for justice and the right to speak out, then my brave and beautiful cat did not die in vain.
I will NEVER forget. And I will NEVER be silenced.
Correspondence from the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners re Edward J. Nichols, DVM, Crestway Animal Clinic, San Antonio, Texas, Case #00061
Acknowledgment of receipt of my complaint against Edward J. Nichols, DVM, and opening Case #00061
December 17, 1999 - Letter to Julie Catalano from TSBVME
Notification of informal conference and allegations re Case #00061
July 19, 2000 - Letter to Julie Catalano
Notification of dismissal of all allegations re Case #00061
August 21, 2000 - Letter of dismissal to Edward J. Nichols, DVM
Notification of dismissal of all allegations re Case #00061
August 22, 2000 - Letter to Julie Catalano