By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Her nose was badly broken, Tucker told her after a brief exam. She would need surgery. Without waiting for swelling to go down, which was standard procedure, he gave her drugs and prepped her for the operation.
When Lehman awoke the next day, she was shocked at how terrible she felt. Her eyes were rimmed with black and purple, and her sinus cavity burst with lightning flashes of pain. "I didn't know he'd done anything wrong, but I could tell pretty quickly that I wasn't healing properly," Lehman says. "You try to fight through it. I had classes to teach."
For two months, Lehman visited Tucker weekly, and he prescribed ever more drugs. Finally, in May, the doctor convinced her she needed a second surgery. Lehman was dubious — How could a broken nose turn so serious? — but she agreed.
From the start, the second procedure seemed odd. Lehman awoke from the anesthesia to watch Tucker wheel her from a crowded prep room down a hallway. The first operating room was occupied by a janitor mopping the floor. The second was eerily empty.
"I became terrified. I did dental surgeries, and I knew how it was supposed to work," she says. "The room is supposed to be ready, prepped with equipment and nurses, long before they bring the patient in."
Lehman passed out again and then awoke with electrical tubing up her nose. Tucker soon entered the room and ripped it out by hand, tearing all the stitches. When she made it home from her second surgery, still dazed and heavily medicated, she knew instinctively her nose was worse than ever, she says. "I knew that something was not right. I didn't know why, but I was so damned terrified, I couldn't think clearly."
For a month, she stayed home, pouring saltwater into her sinuses, struggling to breathe and think through the pain. Finally, she returned to Tucker.
It would be the last time. Lehman's drug-induced denial crumbled with one devastating moment of clarity.
Waiting for Tucker to enter the exam room, she blew her nose and looked at the Kleenex. It was covered in gruesome, neon-yellow puss. Tucker walked through the door, and Lehman, tears streaming down her face, showed him the tissue: "Look at this!" she remembers saying. "This is not right!"
Tucker looked calmly at her and smiled: "The tissue is perfectly clear, Jan. You just don't want to get better."
Suddenly, Lehman's brain clicked. That statement — telling her that neon yellow was clear — finally broke down all her barriers: her instinctive trust of doctors, her unquestioning belief in authority. "I finally caught him in a blatant lie," she says. "I didn't know what was going on with my body or what had been done to me. But I knew a color. I knew it was yellow... That's when the terror hit me."
She ran. First to a bathroom, where she sobbed. Then home. Finally to a trusted doctor at the dental school, who took her to a colleague.
When that doctor first shined a light into her sinuses, he recoiled. Then he gently tugged out the gauze that Tucker had left packed inside her nose for months. It was yellow and festering with infection.
"That's when I knew this was intentional," Lehman says. "I completely lost it."
Armed with antibiotics, she spent weeks fighting infections and abscesses in her sinuses — but the damage, she'd later learn, went beyond the gauze. Her cartilage was so mangled that one side of her nose would later collapse; years later, she'd wake up to find cartilage protruding from her skin.
As Lehman tried to figure out what to do, her terror grew. Then, one day, driving home from Marquette, she swore she spotted him: Tucker was in his car, carefully following her.
She knew then she had to leave town. Within three weeks, she'd fled to Austin, Texas, where friends had recommended she hide out. Once there, she continued pursuing a complaint she'd filed against Tucker.
She didn't expect much to come of it. Wisconsin's medical laws in 1978 were almost comically tilted toward doctors. To file a lawsuit, malpractice victims first had to appear before a "Patient Compensation Panel," where doctors grilled would-be plaintiffs like criminals over intimate medical details. Without the panel's go-ahead, no suit was allowed.
"I knew I didn't have much hope," Lehman says. "But money wouldn't have helped anyway. I wanted to get Tucker's actions on the record."
Lehman didn't know it yet, but she was far from alone in coping with damage from the doctor.
Months after Lehman fled to Texas, a woman who had lost 100 pounds by dieting went to Tucker for help. She hoped to reduce the excess skin left on her body. Tucker operated on her arms, abdomen, and breasts — but botched the job so badly that she needed 13 more surgeries, according to media reports.
Another man, named as "Ralph" in a 1984 Milwaukee Magazine article, sought Tucker's help for spasms in his left arm. The surgery was so catastrophic that Ralph lost use of the arm, which was eventually amputated above the elbow.
You mentioned Milwaukee Plastic Surgeon Dr. Donald Levy in the above story. You need to know that Dr. Levy, when going through a nasty divorce from his wife Mary , threatened his ex-wife that he had means to kill her without anyone knowing. Mary owned very expensive horses. Dr. Levy was seen going into the barn one morning and injecting plastic into Mary's horses vein...resulting in the horse dying a horrible death. Charles Skyes did an extensive feature story at the time in Mlwaukee Magazine. Nothing happened to Levy. He continued to be allowed to practice surgery. It was awful and unfair.