West Orange County Regional Court
8141 13th Street
Westminster, CA 92683

Small Claims Case No. 327748

Filed: December 15, 1998

Mark J. & Deborah L. Eskridge

Robert L. Rooks, D V M
Craig S. Bergstrom, D V M

Plaintiff's Claim:
On 12-18-97 we checked our dog into the All-Care Animal Referral Center under the impression that Craig Bergstrom was a certified neurologist. Our dog died.

Judgment for the Plaintiff.

Background information regarding this case:

This complaint letter is in regards to my male Akita (named Oso) who died on December 19, 1997 from what we believe was a lack of proper medical treatment at the All-Care Animal Referral Center in Fountain Valley, California. The Akita was born on 02/10/94, and was not quite four years old.

On 12/17/97, at approximately 1:45 p.m. I left for work in Fountain Valley from my home in Tustin. Just prior to leaving my house, I had been in the back yard playing with my two dogs and noticed that the Akita was not overly eager to eat a treat as he normally had been. In fact, when I gave Oso the treat, he dropped it on the ground and did not bend his head down to pick it up. I remember picking up the treat, giving it to him again, and then leaving for work. I returned home around 1:30 a.m. on 12/18/97. I went into my backyard to see my dogs and noticed that the Oso moved slightly slower than normal, appeared to have some labored breathing, and walked somewhat light on his rear feet. I immediately awoke my husband and it took both of us to lift the Oso into the back seat of my vehicle. Normally, Oso was physically strong enough to hop both in the car and the back of our other car (Chevy Tahoe). Being that I worked in Fountain Valley and had dealt with All-Care Animal Referral Center in the past (Oso had surgery for hip dysplasia in both rear legs on 03/25/95 from the facility) I felt comfortable bringing him back to see a specialist to examine my dog.

I arrived at All-Care around 1:45 or 2:00 a.m. and explained to the attendant at the front counter what I had observed. I was brought to a waiting room and Dr. Frank Borostyankoi examined the dog. Dr. Borostyankoi had Oso walk back and forth in a hallway, manipulated his rear and front legs, as well as checked the area above the back. In his opinion, Dr. Borostyankoi said it appeared the dog had sprained his back, as Oso appeared to be favoring one of his rear legs as he walked, and was a little slow when making turning movements. At that time, I did not remember any injuries that oso had sustained at home. Dr. Borostyankoi told me that around 6:00 a.m. Dr. Bergstrom would be on-duty and he would like to have Dr. Bergstrom examine Oso. I was told by Dr. Borostyankoi that Dr. Bergstrom was a very good Neurologist who would be able to examine Oso and do blood tests also. I gave my permission for this to be done. I then left All-Care.

I returned home and around 9:00 a.m. I received a phone call from Dr. Bergstrom. Dr. Bergstrom told me that he had completed the x-rays on Oso and everything appeared to be okay. Lab work was not completed to show results of any blood tests. He further told me he had "manipulated" Oso's neck and head causing the dog to cry out. Based upon this, Dr. Bergstrom told me he felt there may be an injury to the dog's neck area. He wanted to keep Oso for further observation, adding he wanted to do a myelogram the following morning. I questioned him as to the delay in doing tests, and he said that the dog was stable and it was not good to put Oso to sleep twice in 24 hours. At that time, I was advised the only medicine being given to Oso was anti-inflammatory medicine to bring down any swelling. I then hung up with Dr. Bergstrom and phoned my husband to relay the conversation I had with Dr. Bergstrom. We both agreed to have the myelogram done for Oso.

I began thinking about how Oso could have injured his neck or back and remembered an incident the previous day on 12/16/97. On that day around 2:00 p.m. I had finished giving Oso a bath inside the house and was walking him out to the living room so he could go outside to dry off. I had opened the sliding glass door for Oso to walk out. Instead of walking through the opening, Oso (who had just prior been sitting on the carpet) stepped forward and banged his head on the glass door (which did not break). At the time, Oso appeared a little startled and then went outside. Upon remembering this, I immediately phoned Dr. Bergstrom (I believe around 10:00 or 11:00 a.m.) and told him the incident. Dr. Bergstrom said that would then explain why Oso cried out when his neck was manipulated and turned side to side. Further conversation ensued with me being told that Oso could have a blown disk, compressed disk, pinched nerve, or other strain in his neck/head area.

I phoned my sister who has worked with many reputable veterinarians through animal rescue groups and explained to her what had happened. She told me to get Oso out of All-Care, as in her opinion they would be extremely slow in their treatment. When I had given her the names of the doctors treating Oso, I was told to get Oso out immediately as Dr. Bergstrom was not a Board Certified nor Board qualified Neurologist, and that if left there, she believed Oso would die of the slow pace of treatment they would provide. This was based upon her own experience with Dr. Bergstrom involving a dog who was bit by a tick and showing signs of paralysis. The dog was removed from All-Care with paralysis to be successfully treated by another veterinarian.

I drove to All-Care and went in to visit Oso around 9:00 p.m. on 12/18/97. Oso was laying down in a kennel and it was very obvious to me that his condition was now grave. Oso looked at me and tried to stand up by standing on his front legs. He collapsed on the floor and began screaming/howling in pain. Oso was extremely lethargic. He could not hold his head up nor was he eating. Dr. Borostyankoi came over to the kennel where I was with Oso and told me that Oso was in a lot of pain. He further told me Oso was on some anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce any swelling in his neck, but was not on any pain medicine as they did not want Oso's muscles to relax and cause his spine or vertebrae in his neck to move around. Still, as of this time, Oso was not on any antibiotics.

I phoned my husband at home and asked him to meet me at All-Care, as I wanted to take him out to another facility recommended by my sister. This facility, named Southern California Surgical Group (in Irvine), would have a Board Certified Neurologist on staff to receive Oso. My husband had spoken on the phone with Dr. Hanson of So. Cal. Surgical Group and it was decided that if Oso was in too much pain, it would be best to leave him until the morning as there would be no one at the facility during the night. Dr. Hanson also suggested that we allow the myelogram to be done. My husband arrived around 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. and we both met with Dr. Borostyankoi who told us that Oso was doing okay, but that he was in a lot of pain from a compressed or dislocated disk in his neck. Again I asked why Oso was not being given medicine to alleviate the pain and was told that pain killers would allow Oso to move which would cause more injury. He continued to tell us that Dr. Bergstrom was a very good neurologist and that the myelogram in the morning would reveal more information about Oso's condition.

On the morning of 12/19/97 I received a call from Dr. Bergstrom regarding the myelogram on Oso. He told me he was not successful in getting the dye in the myelogram to pass through Oso's spinal cord in the neck area. He tried to have the dye pass through an area near Oso's lower back, as well as near the neck area. Dr. Bergstrom told me there was some sort of blockage in the neck which could be from a blown disk or dislocated vertebrae and he wanted to have an MRI done on Oso. I was told the MRI would give the most information on what was going on with Oso's neck. I asked Dr. Bergstrom if the MRI could be done this same morning (as the myelogram) but was told that it would have to wait until the morning of 12/20/97 as again they did not want to put Oso to sleep twice within 24 hours. Further conversation with Dr. Bergstrom revealed that the blood work done on the morning of 12/18/97 had still not come back with laboratory results, and that when he pulled the needle out for the myelogram, there was blood in the fluid. He told me this blood would have been from the needle scraping the spinal cord as it went inside.

I decided to have Oso removed from All-Care Animal Referral Center due to what I believed was a lack of medical treatment he was receiving, as well as how slow the treatment was being given. I phoned Southern California Surgical Group and spoke with a technician named Gilbert. Gilbert arranged to meet my husband and me at All-Care to transport Oso to So. Cal. Surgical Group. We met at approximately 11:00 a.m. My husband went inside with me to have Oso discharged. My husband also went to where Oso was located and told me that Oso did not look very good. I went outside and explained to Gilbert the treatment Oso had received thus far. I was met outside by Dr. Bergstrom who now told me that he would be willing to do the MRI for free if we let Oso stay there. I told him no, as this was not an issue about money, rather it was the lack of speed with which medical treatment was being given.

It took approximately 45 minutes to get the paperwork finalized to remove Oso from All-Care. He was carried out on a gurney with an I.V. needle still attached. I became very upset on seeing Oso as in less than 33 hours his condition had deteriorated so much that he had gone from walking into All-Care to being carried out on a gurney. Oso's eyes were glazed over, he trembled excessively and cried as if in extreme pain. I asked Dr. Bergstrom what was wrong with Oso, and he replied that he was going through the after effects of anesthesia from the myelogram. I had previously been told that the myelogram was performed around 6:00 a.m. on 12/19/97. He further stated that Oso was not in pain, rather, he was just scared from coming out of the anesthesia.

Oso was placed on the gurney into a van and driven to Southern California Surgical Group by Gilbert. WE met them at the facility and Oso was rushed in to see Dr. Hanson. Dr. Hanson met with us very soon after and told my husband and me that Oso was "hour to hour" and was in very serious condition. We were able to get Oso's medical records from All-Care and those were brought to Dr. Hanson. Dr. Hanson asked us why All-Care had given Oso "Mannitol" and I responded that I had no idea. I told Dr. Hanson the only medicine I was told Oso was given was anti-inflammatory medicine. When asked what "Mannitol" was, Dr. Hanson told me it was a diuretic for brain swelling. We then discussed the tremors and glazed eyes that I observed on Oso. Dr. Hanson told me that in his opinion the tremors were not after effects of anesthesia, especially if the myelogram was performed at 6:00 a.m., and it was now more than six hours later. Dr. Hanson told me that the tremors were the result of Oso having brain seizures. Dr. Hanson advised that a second myelogram would need to be done, and we allowed for this procedure.

Dr. Hanson was successful in performing the myelogram and having the dye pass through the spinal cord. I was told there was no blockage of any sort, nor was there a problem with Oso's neck regarding dislocated discs. At approximately 7:00 p.m. on 12/19/97 Oso was euthanized due to his condition having deteriorated to the point of having no brain activity.

We authorized Dr. Hanson to have a necropsy performed on Oso. This was performed by Daniel Gould, D V M/PhD at the Colorado Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Colorado State University, Fort Collins.

I believe it was on 12/20/97 or 12/21/97 when we received a phone call from Dr. Bergstrom advising us that All-Care got the results of Oso's lab test. Dr. Bergstrom advised me that the lab work done by All-Care showed Oso to have "Rheticulosis" cells present. He said the only treatment would have been a steroid which could have temporarily refused the effects, but the disease would have been fatal.

I received a copy of the necropsy and phoned Dr. Bergstrom to request a meeting with him to go over the treatment Oso received. Dr. Bergstrom called me from his home and asked for a copy of the necropsy and asked that I get the myelogram as well as he would like to compare it with the myelogram he had performed. He further went on to ask if I was angry at him. I explained I was upset with how slow treatment was being given to Oso and that my dog was dead. I also discussed with him the condition Oso was in when he left All-Care and how, according to Dr. Hanson, Oso was having brain seizures. Dr. Bergstrom denied the tremors were seizures, instead saying they were the effects of the anesthesia wearing off. I then told Dr. Bergstrom that I brought Oso to All-Care as I was under the impression he would be seen by a Neurologist. When asked, Dr. Bergstrom told me he was a Neurologist, but then quickly clarified it by saying he was not Board Certified. I explained to him that in my profession, I cannot go around claiming to be a position that I am not. Dr. Bergstrom's response to that was there is a lot to be said for experience over education, and that he had a lot of experience in neurology. Dr. Bergstrom said everything performed on Oso was overseen by Dr. Rooks (Chief of Staff at All-Care) and he would not have changed any of the treatment looking backwards. (It should be mentioned that I had an uninvolved Veterinary look at the autopsy report and was told that no where on the report did it indicate Oso had Rheticulosis).

Since dropping of a copy of the necropsy to for Dr. Bergstrom, I have had to leave six messages to set up a meeting with him to discuss this case. My husband and I finally walked into his office on 05/05/98 at 4:00 p.m. to see him without an appointment. WE were told that Dr. Rooks wanted to meet with all of us to go over the results. I was told to call on 05/07/98 to set up an appointment. Four to five messages were left that day, again with negative results in getting a meeting set up.

I am very frustrated not only over the fact that I believe my dog died due to a lack of quality medical care and misdiagnosis, but now because of the unprofessional conduct displayed by Dr. Bergstrom in my trying to discuss this case with him. I was deceived into believing that Dr. Bergstrom was a Board Certified Neurologist to attend to Oso. It should be mentioned that inside the hallways of All-Care are photos of the staff with their names and specialties. The photograph for Dr. Bergstrom indicates his name of Craig Bergstrom, with the words "Internal Medicine/Neurology." I believe this further tries to promote him as a Specialist which he is not. I am further upset with the fact that I was told Oso was never given any pain medicine nor antibiotics, and instead had to die a painful death which possibly could have been avoided if treated aggressively in the beginning. When Oso was removed from All-Care to be transported, none of us were ever told of the gravity of his condition. I am appalled that All-Care allowed the dog to be transported without any life support monitors, without being told of his grave condition, and without it even being suggested to us to have him transported in an emergency ambulance which All-Care has on scene. At no time during his treatment were we advised that Oso should be seen by a Neurologist/Specialist.

On August 29, 1998, we finally were able to have a meeting with Dr. Rooks and Dr. Bergstrom regarding this entire incident. In addition to myself, my husband and a co-worker were present during the meeting. During this meeting, Dr. Bergstrom was confronted with the issue of him not being a Board Certified Neurologist, and that we were deceived into believing he was one. Dr. Bergstrom stated that he has been studying neurology for eight years and travels to U C Davis to receive training under Dr. Rick LeCoudeur. According to Dr. Rooks, Dr. Bergstrom does this twice a month, and the only reason Dr. Bergstrom is not Board Certified is because it is too expensive to complete the formal training. Dr. Rooks insisted that DR. Bergstrom is a very competent Neurologist. Dr. Bergstrom added that he has been told by Dr. LeCoudeur that he is proficient in the field to call himself a Neurologist. We were told by Dr. Rooks and Dr. Bergstrom that being a "Specialist" is defined by the Doctor and not by Law! We were advised to call up Dr. LeCoudeur (530-752-1393) at U C Davis who would tell us that Dr. Bergstrom is allowed to call himself a Neurologist. I subsequently made the phone call and was told Dr. LeCoudeur did not take phone calls; rather, they were screened out to interns. I received a phone call back from an intern who told me the school has gone back and forth on the issue of whether a D V M can call himself a Neurologist if not formally Board Certified. She was not able to give me the answer.

I am submitting this complaint to you regarding Dr. Craig S. Bergstrom, Dr. Robert L. Rooks, and Dr. Frank Borostyankoi of All-Care Animal Referral Center. I have tried to resolve the issue in every way that I can through phone calls and office visits. I am asking that his case be investigated, as I believe All-Care has operated in an unprofessional, deceptive, and negligent manner regarding the treatment of Oso, and the misrepresentation of Dr. Bergstrom.

Thank you.


Deborah L. Eskridge / Mark J. Eskridge