Tonight’s episode of “Autopsy: The Last Hours of …” featured “Donda West,” who died at the age of 58 and the mother or Kanye West, one of the biggest rappers in the world. As the episode begins, the caller is on with the 911 operator asking about her condition, but on November 10, 2007, died just 24-hours after cosmetic surgery. The immediate finger of suspicion was pointed at her surgeon, Dr. Jan Adams.
It was up to Dr. Michael Hunter, world-renowned pathologist to investigate and reveal the exact cause of her death. As Dr. Hunter goes over the 36-page autopsy report that was inconclusive. His challenge is to uncover the reason Donda West died.
On November 9, 2007, at 7 a.m., she reported to the Brentwood Surgery Center in Beverly Hills, California. She was there to undergo breast enhancement and liposuction. She moved to California from the Midwest, where she was an English Professor, when Kanye asked her to be his manager. He was paying for his mother’s surgery and was just engaged to fashion designer, Alexis Pfeiffer along with releasing his third album, Graduation.
The autopsy report showed that she had multiple cosmetic procedures, with incisions on the upper and lower parts of her body. At 8 a.m., she was prepped for surgery and her vital signs monitored throughout the 5 and a half hours she would be in surgery.
She was born July 12, 1949 in Oklahoma City, to Portwood and Lucille Williams, who instilled excellence in her. When she brought a report card home with two “As” and a “B,” her father wanted to know why she received a “B.” In college, she attended Virginia Union on a music scholarship. She married Ray West, a photographer and member of the Black Panther Party. They were the perfect union to bring forth Kanye, their only child. After their divorce, Kanye moved to Chicago with his mother. As a teacher, she rose to level of professor of English at Chicago State University. When Kanye wanted to become a rapper, she told him it was only a hobby until you got paid for it. So he quit college and put all his effort into music.
At 8:30 a.m. on November 7, she was wheeled into the operating room. Kanye was then in London promoting his new album. Dr. Hunter stated that at 5’ 2” and 188 pounds, she was clinically obese and the report also mentioned that she had an underactive thyroid. For her first procedure, they did liposuction, where the fat is injected with saline to liquefy it, and then it is sucked out with high intensity as it is forced through the suction tube. On the report, Dr. Hunter notices she is borderline diabetic and the surgical team was not monitoring her blood sugar levels. If her levels were too high, this could lead to coma and possibly death. At 10:35 a.m., she was under general anesthesia for one hour, and her danger is the loss of fluids, which could cause hypovolemic shock, which was ruled out by Dr. Hunter because the fluids into her body, and those removed were not excessive to cause a problem.
Retiring from teaching and moving from Chicago to Los Angeles was a great boost to her son’s career. It also thrust her into the spotlight, and she needed to look the part. Dr. Hunter determined that she was under anesthesia for 7-1/4 hours, which increased her chances of infection, swelling and blood clots. She had the liposuction, a procedure that went all around her belt line and also breast implants. At 3:10 p.m. was wheeled out of surgery by was still unconscious until 4:30 p.m. At 6 p.m. she unhooked herself from the monitors and decided to go home. Despite from her surgeon’s warnings, she was released to her nephew, a nurse. At 8:30 p.m., she was weak and tired and had several dressings. They took her to the bathroom, and her breathing was much labored. She told her friend, Diana that she was going to die. Without the ability to monitor her vital signs, the caregivers were in the dark. The hospital bed and monitoring equipment should have been there before she left the hospital.
The next day at 10 a.m., her nurse had another appointment and had to leave. He was supposed to be there around the clock. At 11 a.m., she wanted more Vicodin and the people who were caring for her were not trained to care for a post-op patient. The equipment that her nurse-nephew supposedly ordered never arrived. Calls to his phone all day, were never returned.
At 3 p.m., she continued to ask for more Vicodin. With no reply from her nurse-nephew, they called the doctor who said to give the Vicodin as per the label. At 7:10 p.m., they went in to check on her, and she was not breathing. They attempted to give CPR, and at 7:45 when the paramedics arrived and at 8:29 p.m. she was dead.
For Dr. Hunter, he knows that the surgery did not kill her, nor did she have a pulmonary embolism. He did find that there was a family history of heart disease. Prior to her surgery, she had gone to another plastic surgeon that turned her down for surgery, unless she had further tests to ensure her heart was strong enough to undergo such surgery, but she refused and went to Dr. Jan Adams. Less than six weeks before surgery, she had gone to Cedars Sinai with chest and left arm pain. Her leaving the hospital so soon was the first sign that led to her death. Without proper monitoring, complications could happen. Had she remained at the hospital, the care needed to avert the complications would be there for her. Secondly, Steven Scoggins promised the care she would have received at the hospital, but it did not happen. Instead, she was left to the care of two friends with no nursing experience. In the moments before her death, she experienced chest pain, sweating, shortness of breath and vomiting. Dr. Hunter concluded that by not letting her doctor know about her heart problems; she died of a massive heart attack.
Dr. Jan Adams took the fall for something he knew nothing about. After interviews on the Larry King Show, he stated that his practice suffered greatly after the death of Donda West. Her death led to the Enactment Of The Donda West Law in California requiring medical history and physical exam with written clearance by a physician 30 days before a patient undergoes cosmetic surgery, as seen on this episode of “Autopsy: The Last Hours of …”