Family of late Silver Cross CEO files complaint against Chicago hospital

The complaint included a letter from an expert dated Feb. 12

The family of Silver Cross Hospital president and CEO Ruth Colby, who died following complications related to surgery last fall, is filing a lawsuit alleging negligence against the University of Chicago.

On Feb. 14, Keith A. Hebeisen, a partner at Clifford Law Offices in Chicago, filed a complaint against the University of Chicago Hospitals and Health Systems and Dr. Husam H. Balkhy, according to a news release from Clifford Law Offices.

Balkhy tried to repair Colby’s heart valve Sept. 25 with a minimally invasive robotic heart valve procedure, according to the release.

According to the University of Chicago Medicine website, Balkhy “is a pioneer in the field of minimally invasive and robotic cardiac surgery.”

Several attempts were made to transition Colby off bypass after the procedure, and Colby suffered severe heart failure, according to the complaint and news release.

Colby “was transferred from the operating room to the intensive care unit in critical condition,” according to the release.

Colby, 69, died Oct. 15 “while still in the care of the defendants,” according to the release.

David Chodak, Colby’s son, is the plaintiff and executor of Colby’s estate.

The complaint included a letter from an expert dated Feb. 12. The expert is a “practicing board-certified cardiovascular surgeon and a board-certified trauma general surgeon, with additional prior board certification in surgical critical care” and more than 40 years of surgical experience, according to the letter.

After reviewing more than 8,000 pages of Colby’s health records, the expert wrote that Colby’s death was “preventable.”

The expert wrote in the letter that when complications arise during a robotic minimally invasive mitral valve repair, the standard of care is to switch to an open procedure and replace the valve.

“Our expert report states that Ms. Colby underwent the wrong procedure, which was negligently performed,” Hebeisen said in the release. “We intend to get to the bottom of what happened because Ms. Colby did everything as she was advised and relied on this hospital and its doctor to properly treat her condition without her dying.”

Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox declined to comment.

Colby joined Silver Cross in 2005 as its senior vice president and chief strategy officer. She became president and CEO of Silver Cross in 2017.

Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow previously said Colby was a powerful force in Will County yet extremely positive and “easy to work with.”

Under Colby’s leadership, Silver Cross developed strategic partnerships with the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, University of Chicago Medicine for cancer services and neurosciences, Rush University Medical Center for lung surgery and the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago for pediatric services.

In August 2022, Silver Cross also opened the Amy, Matthew and Jay Vana Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Will County’s first and only Level III NICU.

Colby worked with US HealthVest to build a 110-bed behavioral health hospital on the Silver Cross campus, Silver Cross said.

The New Lenox Chamber of Commerce named Colby as the New Lenox Citizen of the Year at the Chamber’s annual dinner Feb. 15, 2023.

“The sudden and unexpected passing of Ruth Colby continues to leave us saddened not only by the loss of a great leader but, more importantly, the loss of a wonderful human being and dear friend,” New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann said in a statement to the Herald-News on Wednesday.

Jean Kenol, chairman of the Silver Cross board of directors, previously praised Colby’s vision in a statement accompanying a news release from Silver Cross announcing Colby’s death.

“Ruth was a true servant leader and a driving force in transforming Silver Cross from a community hospital to a regional medical center and nationally recognized health care brand,” Kenol said. “She was an inspiration to us all, was beloved by our hospital community and she loved them passionately in return. We will miss her terribly.”

An employee signs a tribute wall for Ruth Colby, former president and chief executive officer of Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox. Silver Cross held a celebration on Friday and Saturday to honor Colby's life and legacy.

Donald DeFrank, who married Colby in 2006, previously said Colby often took phone calls late at night because someone was worried about a relative who was just admitted.