updated 7/21/2009 9:56:21 PM ET 2009-07-22T01:56:21

An airman lost parts of both legs and was in critical condition after routine gallbladder surgery at Travis Air Force Base went terribly wrong, his family said.

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Airman 1st Class Colton Read was supposed to get his gallbladder removed laparoscopically — via a small incision — at Travis' David Grant Medical Center on July 9.

During the procedure, surgeons nicked or punctured an aorta, a large artery that carries blood from the heart throughout the body, according to his wife, Jessica Read. The surgeons repaired the breach enough to save his life, but the repair began leaking and disrupted the blood supply to his legs, she said.

Read was flown to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where doctors told the family that damage from the lack of blood required amputation. Family members say he's undergone 10 surgeries to remove dead tissue from his legs, leaving him without much of his right leg and the lower portion of his left.

And Read still hasn't had his gallbladder removed because of the surgery complications, relatives said.

Travis officials would not comment on specifics, only saying a "serious medical incident" occurred at the hospital. The case is under investigation by the base, a national hospital accrediting commission and the U.S. surgeon general.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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