How I Lost 12.5 Pounds & Regained My Soul

Naked, as in truth, and uncensored, I share my daily quest to survive as a woman and artist, while dealing with the complications of a full life, meddling in politics, loving my children to excess, totally permanently married and on a never-ending diet. While my soul is in constant need of repair and redemption, I struggle to do the right thing. In the meantime, let's all double the love. (Love, not sex, you fool). All posts are copyrighted material.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Modern hell: Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital in L.A.

Good morning, my kindly little eggplants~

There are certain things that can be done to a person that seem inhumane, but ignoring someone's pain and suffering in a hospital emergency room seems like the lowest of the low.

After all, medical professionals are supposed to be a select group of highly intelligent, caring healers and superior to most of us. Or at least, that is what the sick and dying deserve them to be, isn't it?

But reality doesn't always reflect our hopes and dreams, which is why what happened to a 43-year-old mother of three at King-Harbor Hospital is so very disturbing.

I'll set the scene for you. A decently dressed, obese middle-aged woman of modest means arrived at the emergency room in extreme abdominal pain. She was given pain medication and a doctor's appointment and discharged.

However, over a couple of days when her pain increased, she returned to the emergency room of the hospital.

As she described her pain I am sure she was upset and wasn't smiling. She told the triage nurse that she had several gallstones and she thought one of them had burst. She was told that she had already been seen and to leave, but the woman was in such pain she fell out of the wheelchair she was in and was writhing on the floor.

For forty-five minutes.

She was totally ignored by medical staff and only one on-looker tried to assist her at all, but nothing was done to help her. The security video tape shows the medical personnel ignoring her and the janitor even cleaning around her.

When her boyfriend arrived and tried to get help for her, even calling 911, he was rebuffed, but the operators there called the police. They also refused to help as they claimed Ms. Rodriguez was already in a medical facility and so there was no place else to bring her.

What the police did do was run a 'warrant' check on her, where they found something outstanding, and promptly arrested the poor woman. Still in agonizing pain, she had been put back into the wheelchair. They wheeled her out to their squad car to be escorted to the police station.

Her boyfriend - who the triage nurses later tried to say became combative which the tape and witnesses showed was untrue - requested reassurance from the police that his girlfriend would receive medical care, which they assured him she would.

The boyfriend left as they were rolling her out to the police car. They ordered her to get into the car, but she didn't move or respond in any way. A policeman felt for a pulse and found she had none. They immediately wheeled her back into the hospital where CPR was performed but to no avail. She was dead.

The woman's large bowel had burst, which can cause death quickly when it releases feces and bacteria into the body cavity. Who knows when that actually happened, as this woman had been in excruciating pain for days.

Dozens of people had watched her writhe in agony, medical and layman alike, and other than her boyfriend, it appears nobody did a thing to help her.

The horrifying details of Edith Isabel Rodriguez's death are recounted in this L.A. Times piece today, but my own imagination can easily supply the backdrop. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-king20may20,0,1577522,full.story?coll=la-home-center

It was about eight years ago and a relative, while my sister was visiting from New England for a week, seemed very disinterested in going around town with us. That would not be unusual for him, but he did indicate he wasn't feeling well. A non-complainer, however, doesn't set off alarms, so I did my usual amount of balancing work and a family visit.

After a bunch of tests the doctor couldn't find anything wrong with my relative. No cancer, no perforations, no nothin'.

Well, almost exactly a year later, he experienced the same set of symptoms, only this time he didn't wait five days. He went to the hospital room that night. After six hours of excruciating pain and several tests - but not an ultrasound as there was no one able to perform that test at four in the morning and no one on call was reached?

A physician's assistant, the only person who had seen him whom we thought was a doctor, discharged him and suggested he see his regular doctor in the morning.

The diagnosis? Constipation.

Nine hours later, after his appendix had burst, his regular doctor sent us back to the hospital. Only he said not to wait for an ambulance - that I should drive him myself as every minute counted.

Luckily, by the time the surgeon arrived a few hours later, they were able to operate and the bacteria had been somewhat contained by his physiology. They removed his appendix, sopped up everything poisonous they could in his body cavity and thank heavens he lived.

He had Blue Cross insurance, he went to a private hospital and he still almost died from inadequate care.

My point? Just because one cannot identify with this woman's trips to a 'bad' hospital - it had already lost its accreditation, federal funding and was on probation though still operating to allow the hospital an opportunity to upgrade services - doesn't mean you won't end up with the same kind of callous treatment.
Or should I say, callous lack of treatment.

Why was this poor woman's life worth so much less to these hospital workers? What has happened to our society at large that a woman suffering in excruciating pain can be ignored while she dies?

The answer, my friends, is a fatal combination of many factors. I am sure the criminal investigation that follows will discover an old familiar pattern.

We no longer give our fellow man or woman the benefit of the doubt as we so love to believe the worst of everyone. Yet the biggest fakers of all get elected and re-elected because they know how to put on the horse and pony show.

We assume that anyone who isn't smooth, or rich or debonair is a 'faker', 'attention whore', 'crazy' or not worth our attention.

Was Edith Isabel Rodriguez ignored because she was fat? Was she ignored because she was middle-aged? Was she ignored because she was poor? Was she ignored because she was too compromised by excruciating pain to be able to advocate for herself? Was she ignored because she and her boyfriend were Latinos? Or did none of those things matter to those around her. Did they just not give a damn?

This is nothing new. In the 1960's a young woman was stabbed to death in the courtyard of her several story apartment building with dozens of witnesses and not one person who went to her aid.

Each and every one of us has been guilty of this horrendous pattern of 'minding our own business'. How often have we let an old person carry a bag too heavy from their out of the market. How many times did a pregnant woman stand on a bus, her belly swaying back and forth. How many times did we watch a parent scream at a child or slap them in a supermarket or big box store, and think, "What a @*%*@!" while we did nothing?

Edith Isabel Rodriguez may not have mattered to you or me or those nurses and doctors in the emergency room, but she was somebody's daughter and somebody's mother and somebody's loved one. She deserved more.

Alleviating suffering and helping others should be everybody's business.

Clark County Diva

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