16 December 2009

Layers of Story

Here, a pregnant woman shows up at the ER. As is quite common, she's pretty well ignored for hours. Yep, triage and go sit and wait over there. And wait. And wait. So, she gets tired of waiting next to all the flu patients, figures out that this "sit in the waiting room and hope someone gets 'round to me" isn't working, goes home and gives birth to a premature infant that dies.


Would the baby have died anyway? We'll never know. Not that that makes it ok to leave her in the waiting room forever. Should she have gone home? Was it a reasonable and advisable thing to do? Maybe not, but then again, I wasn't the one there dealing with the situation, pregnant and hurting with God-knows-who filtering into the ER room. Was she scared for her safety? Were the sick patients kept isolated?

Is this lady some big-money seeker looking to make a fast buck by suing? Well, if she is, she's going to some pretty extreme lengths for her cash. Most people don't start their day hoping their kid dies so they can get a few million. It bothers me when doctors' advocates make victims out to be cash-hungry crazies who sue at the drop of a hat. I remember once in eighth grade a peppy trial lawyer with a "power tie" came to talk to our health class. (Yeah, stuff like that was common where I lived. Really.)

"Who wants $250,000?" he energetically asked us. OOOOO, every hand was raised. "OK. Now, what would you say if I told you that in exchange for that $250,000, you had to lose the hand you're holding up right now?"

Stunned silence. I'm telling you, it made us think.

Also in the article: Good luck getting any cash out of the system. It's owned by the county. And maybe it's racist of me to assume, but "Roshunda?" Was she poor and black, maybe? Medicaid patient? Do providers ever roll their eyes at the Medicaid folks showing up at the ER? I'm just wondering aloud here, as I could be totally wrong and Roshunda could be the name of Paris Hilton's cousin, who happened to arrive by limousine. But I don't think she is. Then still again, maybe they would have treated Hilton's cousin the same way because they were dealing with many other serious issues at the moment.

Now, watch. We'll never hear of this story again, either because the parties settle or it gets forgotten. But sometimes I will think of stories like this years later and wonder how the folks involved are doing. My prayers go out to Roshunda Abney and her family.


  1. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR YOUR KIND WORDS... We are not poor, but yes we are African AMERICAN, hard working Americans, just like every other American who prays that if one day they should get sick... they will receive the proper medical care that is a basic human rights.

    Thank You- The Family

  2. Thank you, Family, for your comment. And that's (I hope!) what I was getting across. It oughtn't matter about the insurance or the race of the patient. Sorry if I came across that way, but I was wondering aloud if race could be a factor in the treatment Ms. Abney received. If anything, given that African AMERICANS (yes! I agree with your emphasis) are disproportionately likely to deliver prematurely, if anything it should have been triaged UP because of her race (hope that makes sense).

    Here was a lady and an infant who needed help, and why didn't she get it?? I just can't imagine what your Christmas is going to be like.

    I know you can't answer questions because litigation is ongoing, but I hope to hear more about this story later on and see how things turned out. I hope it brings about some change at the hospital and the triage they do...

  3. It's not "they" but "us" -- all of us pretending to be a united people standing for all and following the Golden Rule whatever we label ourselves -- who need to search our broken system for the humanity we say we serve, and do better than we've been doing, at the hospital and the school and in the House, Senate, White House and Supreme Court. In the Middle East and Copenhagen, in the universities and corporate boardrooms and in the streets and yes, in church.

  4. Yes, JJ, but here I meant "they" as in, the people who triage in the emergency room. I'm nowhere near qualified to do that! I understand there are protocols for doing these sorts of things, and "we" should be working toward being people who see that these are applied evenly for everyone. :]

  5. I knew what you meant -- but as you write so poignantly on all sorts of issues small and large, there really isn't any "they" or any need to be qualified to know when something is wrong and inhumane. I'm following a news story in my state today about a mom whose tw0-year-old fell in the backyard pool and drowned while she was tweeting from her garden shed about how foggy it was. They rushed to the hospital but it was too late no matter what triage protocols were in place.

  6. Ohhh, and JJ, what really stops my heart on stories like this is that I KNOW IT CAN HAPPEN TO ME. I have literally gone from an emergency in one room to one in the other. I have enough children that I don't even have to "tweet" to make a mistake that big. I have all kinds of personal "systems" (make sure a homeschooler is watching the toddlers when I get laundry etc.) and ways to do things around the house to try to avoid stuff like that... but it *could* happen. I have a reasonably good track record as a parent, but I just KNOW it only takes a minute.

    I could fall asleep and things could only take a minute. I don't even know how to respond to news stories like this anymore... I used to react (at least in my mind) LIKE THE COMMENTERS THAT DO THE CAPITAL LETTERS AT THE END OF EACH STORY ABOUT HOW DOPEY THE MOM IS. But I am finding things like blame aren't *always* that easy to discern.

  7. Yeah, motherhood is all about vision, we could say -- motes and splinters.


Non-troll comments always welcome! :)