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UPDATE: North Georgia Family questions GBI Autopsy report, having body exhumed for answers

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WHITFIELD COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Six months after being laid to rest, the remains of a North Georgia woman are exhumed.

Sandra Patterson died suddenly after a routine surgery last year, just hours after leaving the hospital. The family is wanting answers about her death so they are paying for a private autopsy. The body of Sandra Patterson was taken to a pathologist in Atlanta Wednesday for a second autopsy. Family members say they're one step closer to finding answers. 
 
"It's unexplainable really, I never thought I would see her above ground again," said Kindra Carroll. "I really feel like she's just been waiting on me."

It's been 6 months of questions, concerns and grief for the Carroll family. They're on a journey to find out what happened to Sandra Patterson, a loving mother and grandmother, gone at 51-years-old.  

"I feel like for a very long time she's been waiting on me so in a sense, today is almost like a homecoming for me because I feel like I finally made it here mom," said Carroll. 

Sandra died September 27th, just hours after being released from Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, GA.  
 
Carroll says her mother woke up with a sore throat after a routine hernia surgery. Family members later learned that a piece of an instrument was accidentally dropped down Sandra's throat during that surgery. Medical records show it took several attempts to remove it, No injury was noted. 

 "They lodged a piece of equipment in her throat," said Carroll. "I've never been at peace with it so I never felt like I laid her to rest."

The GBI Crime Lab ruled Sandra's cause of death to be the result of an enlarged heart, but Carroll says medical tests taken two weeks prior to Sandra's death show her heart was of normal size. Family members showed the report to second pathologist and say he determined the autopsy, conducted by a medical student working as a resident at the crime lab, was incomplete. 

"She was about justice more than anything you know right is right and wrong is wrong and she was always for the underdog so to speak," said Carroll.

Now Carroll is seeking justice, in the form of answers. Channel 3's calls about the case have also prompted questions from the GBI, which is looking into the autopsy results.

"You can't really put a price tag on peace of mind and just peace in general," said Carroll. " I haven't had any peace since this has happened. It's been a long six months and I'm hoping this is the beginning to finding peace for myself and my mom."

Hamilton Medical Center couldn't discuss Sandra's surgery will us, citing HIPPA restrictions. The student who conducted Sandra's autopsy is a Medical College of Georgia student.The resident program coordinator tells Channel 3 all seniors complete a month-long rotation with the state crime lab. 

GBI Chief Medical Examiner has released this statement in regards to Sandra Patterson's autopsy,

"As with many other offices around the country, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Medical Examiner Office is a teaching institution for pathology residents from Augusta University and Forensic Pathology fellows from Fulton County.  Autopsies performed by these individuals are done under the direct supervision of a board certified staff forensic pathologist.  All final decisions concerning the autopsy procedure, ancillary studies and determination of cause and manner of death are made by the attending pathologist
    
Sandra Patterson will be laid back to rest on Good Friday, it could take several weeks to get the results of that second autopsy back, you can count of Channel 3 to keep you updated. 


PREVIOUS STORY: A North Georgia woman wants to know why her mother died suddenly after a routine surgery last year, just hours after leaving the hospital.

Kindra Carroll says her need for closure is what's pushing her to pay for a private autopsy, six months after her mother was laid to rest in Dalton.  
The Carroll family is paying several thousands of dollars out of pocket to have Sandra Patterson exhumed and then laid to rest again, all in hopes of finding answers. 

"The hardest thing is when someone asks what happened to your mom and you say I don't know," said Kindra Carroll. 
 
It's been 6 months since 51-year-old Sandra Patterson passed away, family members say her death is a mystery. 

"It's not something we want to do but I feel like we need to do it," said Buster Carroll who is Sandra's ex-husband. "Seems like if you know the truth its easier to deal with." 

 "I feel like I never laid my mom to rest because I didn't have answers so I feel like I'm bringing her up to get answers," said Carroll. "I have a lot of questions as to what happened, she was only 51." 

Sandra died September 27th of 2015,  just hours after being released from Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton.

"She went into the Hospital on September 25th for a surgery procedure, she came home on September 27th and she passed away at her home," said Carroll. 

Carroll says her mother woke up with a sore throat after a routine laparoscopic surgery to repair a hiatal hernia. The hospital's operative report noted during surgery a piece of an instrument was accidentally dropped down Sandra's throat and became logged in her esophagus. 

The report stated: "The esophageal bougie became lodged within the esophagus and could not be removed. Rigid esophagoscopy was performed to remove the retained bougie." 

The document states after several attempts to remove it, doctors used an "alligator grasper" to remove the object. No injury was noted in the report. Sandra's body was sent to the GBI Crime Lab for an autopsy. 

"It said she passed away of a natural causes due to an enlarged heart which I don't feel is accurate," said Carroll. " She had EKG's done....she had several chest x-rays done with in the past two weeks and her cardiac silhouette was of normal size." 

Carroll hired a pathologist in Atlanta to take a second look at the results. She says he determined the autopsy conducted by a medical student working as a resident at the crime lab was incomplete. 

"It was signed off by a deputy medical examiner but how much was watched, how much was observed, how much was taught," asked Carroll. " I found out that the autopsy did not reveal enough pathology for this other expert to tell me what did happen to my mom." 

"If this turns up wrong, how many more have been wrong?" asked Buster Carroll. " I'm not saying they all are or was but I'm sure they are, we'll find out soon ." 

GBI tells Channel 3 it is also looking into the matter, as Kindra Carroll prepares to say goodbye again. 

"The GBI refers to people as their locker number and she wasn't a locker number, she was my mother, she was a daughter, she was a grandmother. It was their responsibility to give me answers and they didn't give me answers. It's not the end of a story, it's not a closed case, I don't have answers and until I have answers that make sense I will not stop searching," said Carroll.

The student who conducted Sandra's autopsy is a Medical College of Georgia student. The resident program coordinator tells Channel 3 all seniors complete a month-long rotation with the state crime lab. GBI's Chief Medical Examiner is now looking into the student's findings, which were supervised. Hamilton medical center couldn't discuss Sandra's surgery will us, citing HIPPA restrictions. It could take several weeks for results of a second autopsy to come back. When they do, you can count of Channel 3 to share those results. 

Family members say they have set up a memorial account for Sandra Gail Patterson at Wells Fargo to help with exhumation costs. 
 

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