Spurred first by family tragedy, local novelist continues to write
Plaquemine author Bonnie Case Lefebvre tells a fictionalized account of her daughter's love story and the harrowing death of her son-in-law after failed gastric by-pass surgery in her first novel, MD: Masters of Deceit, Story of a Medical Debacle.
“If it helps one person, then I have achieved my goal,” the new novelist said in a recent interview. “I never want anybody, friend or foe, to walk in the shoes my daughter walked in.”
A Plaquemine native and 1969 graduate of Plaquemine, Lefebvre married her high school sweetheart, Emile J. Lefebvre III. She worked for 14 years medical administration, including time at a clinic here working for doctors James Freeman and Boniface Trosclair.
She and her husband left Plaquemine during the “oil crunch” some twenty years ago, moving first to Virginia and then to Natchez, where they lived for 15 years before returning home to be closer to their family.
The novel is set in a fictionalized Natchez, which is called Pretense, Mississippi, in the book. All the names have been changed for legal reasons, Lefebvre said.
She tells the story of the romance between “Gianni Lombardo,” a young and heavyset restaurateur and her daughter “Hope,” a master florist who won a state competition and asked if she could place her award-winning arrangement at his restaurateur. They married after a two-year courtship, and had a son.
“Then, he wanted gastric bypass surgery, so he would not be a prisoner of his body, and so he could truly be a husband to her and a father to Nicholas,” Lefebvre said. “She pleaded with him not to do it.”
After one delay because of his high blood pressure, “Gianni” went ahead with the surgery.
“The doctor came out and said it was a textbook perfect surgery,” she said. “Alarms started going off later that night. On the monitors his blood pressure was falling, but his pulse was rising. The doctor refused to come back [to the hospital].”
Later when he had to get up, he took a couple of steps, but became dizzy, Lefebvre said.
“When they sat him down on the side of the bed, blood gushed from the incision,” she said. “The nurses were slipping on it.”
It was eight days before they could get him moved to another hospital, she said, adding that other doctors who heard about the case wanted nothing to do with it.
“I explain all the medical terminology,” Lefebvre said. “I event ell some things on myself in there that maybe I shouldn't have.”
Before her son--in-law was moved, he had to have a tracheotomy, which was done without the benefit of anesthesia, she said.
After numerous tests, she said, doctors concluded that there was nothing they could do for him. During an attempt to repair the original operation, he had seizures, coded twice and suffered brain injury.
“It was a great tragedy, a great loss to my family,” Lefebvre said. “People really need to think before they want a quick fix.”
When her daughter filed suit against the doctor who performed the original operation, her daughter learned she was filing the 18th lawsuit against the man, who is still practicing medicine, Lefebvre said.
“This book was closure,” she said. “I wrote late at night. I cried many tears.”
In addition to writing the novel, Lefebvre also has testified before a legislative committee about raising Louisiana's limit on a patient’s compensation when doctor is found negligent, and plans to continue pushing for the legislation. The present cap, set in 1976, is $500,000, she said. Of that, she said, the first $100,000 is paid by medical malpractice insurance and the rest from a patient compensation fund administered by the state but funded by doctors, hospitals and clinics.
“We update laws with the times, but we have such a strong lobby for physicians that everything just stays status quo.”
Lebebvre also is continuing to write. She recalled that as a student at Plaquemine High, her teacher Elizabeth Delahaye gave one of her papers special attention – “it looked like it was hemorrhaging” – encouraged her to write books.
“She said you have a gift unlike anyone else in this class. She said never stop writing. The mistakes don't even count to me.”
Currently, Lefebvre is editing her second novel and beginning work on a third – these on lighter subjects.