A nurse has sued Memorial Hospital
, charging that she was demoted after complaining about a heart surgeon tossing bloody tissue at her during an operation.
The eight-page complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court by Sonja Morris alleges that Dr. Bryan Mahan tossed the 4-by-6-inch piece of tissue at her, hitting her on the leg during an open-heart surgery in August 2008.
She contends Mahan made a joke about it to the other surgeons, saying, "Oh (expletive), I hit her. Can we get cultures on that?"
Morris said she felt humiliated as the other surgeons chuckled.
Mahan could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
Morris claims that the incident was part of a pattern of harassing behavior by Mahan toward her.
She also alleged that in June 2008, Mahan came up behind her and hit her in the head.
She told him to stop, but two weeks later, he did it again, the suit alleged. Again she asked him to stop.
Chris Valentine, a spokesman for the hospital, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
"Obviously, because it's in legal hands, we're not in a position to comment," he said.
Mahan is the chairman of cardiac and thoracic medicine at Memorial. He is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Morris has worked at the hospital as a nurse since June 1999. She has been a member of the heart surgery team since October 2007.
The incident with the bloody tissue occurred on Aug. 28, 2008, after normal working hours during an operation in which doctors were doing a procedure known as a pericardiectomy.
The surgery involved removing a protective layer of tissue from the heart. Morris contends that was the bloody tissue that Mahan tossed at her. She said she was standing at a work station about 15 feet away from the operating table.
Because the operation was still in progress, she was unable to immediately clean the part of her leg that the tissue hit.
She filed a complaint about the incident but said that resulted in no disciplinary action.
On Dec. 10, she filed a notice of claim against Mahan and the hospital. Her complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged that she was subjected to a hostile work environment because of her gender.
Seven days later, she said hospital administrators removed her from the heart surgery team, considered a prestigious position, and transferred her to the main operating room.
The suit alleged that this action violated her First Amendment rights to petition the hospital to correct something she considered wrong.