The Story of a Bridge Champion Who was Killed by Medical Cluelessness
DO NO HARM!
The story is about my mother and how a life can be lost in the hands of completely incompetent and clueless doctors and how they can go free of charge or punishment because the legal system does not work. I hope that some day a story like this will make it on 60-Minutes where hospital names and doctors can be mentioned and investigated. Here I will not do so since I want no libel. But I tell you that all of this happened in Orange County in California and the attorney’s office is in plush office just west of Beverly Hills in Los Angeles–I did file a complaint against him on Yelp and elsewhere if you want to find out who he is.
My mother was a spunky 88-year old who still played bridge every week at least once in a senior club–often still winning. She also played competitive bridge on the Internet, beating everyone she played against. She also had (still does, I did not delete it) a Facebook account, an email account, and she would start every morning watching the news; not on TV as other 88-year olds would do but on her computer on MSNBC. She was smart and funny–though she also had a temper. In other words, she was 88 going on 35. Alright?
As a result of a broken ankle though that required screws and plates, she was in a wheelchair so she felt depressed. This was about 2008 or 2009. She insisted that she was depressed and wanted to see a neurologist. He prescribed Mirtazapine, a serotonin medication, at a very low dose, half of the smallest therapeutic dose: she took 3.25 mg (7 mg is the smallest dose). All went well until a refill one day was switched the Sertraline HCL 50 mg as I went to pick the medication up. Sertraline HCL (Zoloft brand name) is not serotonin; it is an SSRI, which is a lot worse. The 50 mg felt an awful lot; the doctor had no idea of a dose equivalence (there is none really, apples and oranges here) but he changed the 50 mg to 25 mg. I was still not happy and the doctor reassured that this is the safest alternative but start at a smaller dose. So we started with 12.5 mg.
Within 3 days we knew something was not right. She had suddenly many issues, she became mean, angry, forgetful, bad mood, etc. She lived just below me in the same house but one morning she called me on her cell phone at 5 am (she normally got up at 8) asking “where is breakfast in this place?” So I ran down and found her in her robe sitting at the edge of the bed in total confusion. I put her back to bed and reassured her that all will be well when my friend comes at 9 am, who was her caretaker.
The next day she called again the same way. This time she was totally naked, had the robe on barely, her closet door open in full and clothing all over. I ran up to get my blood pressure meter and checked her blood pressure. Her systolic was over 180 (120 is normal). I called 911 and off they took her first to a temporary hospital and then to her primary hospital. Here they took note: she was on Klonopin (benzodiazepine that is highly addictive), mirtazapine for her depression but now switched to sertraline, etc. The next day the hospital forgot to give her the Klonopin and accidentally doubled up on her mirtazapine. That night she came down with full-blown serotonin syndrome. I am not an MD but a PhD in the field of neuroscience so I recognize a serotonin syndrome when I see one. Unfortunately 85% of MDs do not recognize it. With my quick action her life was spared that evening (with a lot of threats to the head nurse if she did not act!) but the next day I was told by the psychiatrist on the phone “she cannot have serotonin syndrome it is too rare” (yep.. rare.. the 15% of doctors who can diagnose it found over 50 thousand cases in 2012. I will buy that kind of rare lottery!). Interestingly that psychiatrist, though he was not my doctor, told me to “get off whatever drugs you are on.” I am not on any so not sure what his case and point was.
DO NO HARM!
The director doctor of the hospital, when confronted by me, said “serotonin what?” Because the hospital forgot so casually the Klonopin drug and put my mother through full withdrawal after 10 years of use and instead they injected Ativan (a short half life benzodiazepine with huge highs and huge crashes within a couple of hours of getting one) she ended up being restrained–an 88-year old woman tied to the hospital bed both arms and both legs every single day for a week! She ended up with terrible wounds on her legs and arms as she was trying to free herself! This is full blown elder abuse! After I found out that the Director doctor had no clue of what serotonin syndrome was and that he replaced Klonopin (long half life of 20 hours) with Ativan (short half life of 5 hours), I refused his right of taking care of my mother. He at that point announced that they are discharging my mother. But on his way out of the meeting, he went straight to my mother who was asleep peacefully and shot her up with one last dose of Ativan so my mom ended up in restraints again, for over 10 hours!
So they discharged her into a nursing home for recovery where the serotonin storms hit real hard. They are manic episodes and violent mood swings with hallucination. The MD there took that as schizophrenia and put her on Rispedral. That made my mom go total psycho and she next day slapped everyone in the nursing home, was mad as hell, pulled oxygen tanks from the patients, etc. We later found out that the MD was a PA and had no license even to practice and as a PA he had to have a special license to prescribe this plus he lied about being an MD.
So, as a result of my mother’s criminal behavior, at age 88 they shipped her off to the most hated psych ward in Newport Beach where they are known to experiment on drugs on people without consent. And indeed they did! They put a RIESE 5250 over my mother which means that the State had the right to force medications into her. My durable power of attorney and her wish mattered nothing. She was a prisoner at age 88 and subject to 9 or 10 extremely dangerous drugs every day against her will and my authorization. I had no rights; she had no rights. She was a state-owned experimental guinea pig at age 88 that all started out as a serotonin syndrome! I fought with tooth and nail sending faxes about interactions and problems and allergy to SSRI to no avail. One day the RIESE expired and the doctor called me for permission to continue to give her these psych drugs. I did not agree to any. In spite of that, they shoved 50 mg of Trazadone down her throat–that is serotonin, the very drug that got her there and sick the first place.
She was sent to a Los Angeles based mental health institute nursing facility to recover where she refused all drugs and I agreed. She slowly recovered after a 3-day long near coma. She could not open her eyes but could follow directions of smile, nod, etc. As she recovered I noticed the terrible tremor she ended up with in her hands to the point that she could not drink at all! I spent all my time with her and helped her drink, eat, took her outdoors. Slowly she recovered and even started to walk a bit but the more she recovered the more she realized where she was. This destroyed her last hope and wanted out. She was ready to commit suicide rather than being locked up with the schizophrenics who urinated into her closet and screamed all day long. All her clothes were stolen as well. She was wearing the clothes of other people. It was terrible!
DO NO HARM!
Finally I begged to the psychologist to please reevaluate since her mind is fully recovered, she has no schizophrenia or dementia and never did. He reluctantly interviewed her only to stay having a great time talking about food, sports, and other things. He concluded that she had no mental disorder; she had “location anxiety” and that I can understand. So she got the green light to transfer to a hospital to have her heart and afib taken care of. She was shipped late at night by ambulance to a private Anaheim hospital in Orange County that was close to our home on the 3rd of April, 2014. I handed the nurse the power of attorney, gave the allergy and medication list that was permitted and left–my mom was smiling. The next day, on the 4th, I arrived at about 12:30 pm and watched my mother going to the bathroom without any help while the male nurse stood and held the door frame up with crossed arms–recall my mom could not walk much. The nurse looked at me and yelled at me “why are you just standing there? Why don’t you help her?” I responded that I am not a hospital employee and if he needs help he needs to go and get someone. he stormed out and we did not see him for about 3 more hours.
My mother was sitting in her own urine for over 3 hours when the nurse came back to give her the morning medications (this was nearly 4 pm by now). She normally gets 4 medications but there was 5 in the cup. I asked what is the 5th. The nurse reassured me that it is for heart. It was not. My mother got a mini stroke (TIA) within 20 minutes. As it turned out from the nurse later, my mother received a drug called Namenda. Namenda is used for Alzheimer’s yet she was cleared by the psychologist at the other place from all mental conditions. Unfortunately the curse of the first misdiagnosis followed her again and serotonin drug once more.
DO NO HARM!
After my mother was carried to the ICU I asked for the doctor who prescribed Namenda given that my mother had the allergy band and that I had the power of attorney! By law, in California, if there is a power of attorney, consent is required to get for all psychotropic drugs. The doctor was hiding from me but I cornered her at about 7 pm. I asked her if she knew what drug she prescribed. She gave the name. I asked if she knew what kind of drug that was. She said yes, it is a serotonergic dopanergic drug. Correct, so she knew she gave her a drug with serotonin, which was on the allergy band. So I asked if she knew what serotonin did in the brain? “No” she said. And dopamine? “No”. So what business did she have prescribing a drug she did not know anything about?
Is this the newest expectations of doctors? And for my question if she noticed the red allergy band on my mom’s arm, she said “oh the pharmacy should catch bad prescriptions!” So it is OK for doctor to prescribe wrong? Is it? And then is it OK for a hospital pharmacy to not catch if someone has an allergy and the doctor stupidly prescribes a drug regardless?
DO NO HARM!
The next day my mom was still paralyzed on one side but there was a bit of movement so some hope. But her throat was also partially paralyzed. So on the 5th of April, 2014 they ran a swallow test. They called me after the swallow test and victoriously announced “your mother passed the swallow test so we are shipping her to her own insurance hospital.” I later looked at the records: minimal gagging from one drop of honey consistency syrup. Excuse me? From a tiny drop minimal gagging is passing the swallow test?
DO NO HARM!
At the new hospital she failed the swallow test. All stuff given to her went straight to her lungs. There was nothing left just to let he pass without pain. However, I had the transferring nurse in my hair every single minute I was there like a fly you just cannot get rid of. Can you believe that they wanted to transfer my mother even on her death-bed? She said “it doesn’t look good for the hospital if she dies here.” I had to sit on my hands for that one I tell you but I managed to utter the words somehow that “I felt very sorry for the hospital” and I also told her to leave me alone; I would appreciate some free time with my mother. This was on the 6th of April, the last day I saw her though she passed on the 10th. I received about 5 phone calls a day from the transfer nurse and each time with a message that she wanted to transfer my mom; I did not ever answer the phone. My mother passed on the 10th. I was not present and did not hold her hand. I and my mother were refused our basic human rights by the fly in the hospital that wanted her to die elsewhere. I suppose I should have taken a fly swatter with me but I did not want to end up in jail just then…
Why are hospitals allowed to be so rude and annoying even in the last moment of death? How is it possible that the values of a human have dropped so low that how a hospital looks is more important than the patient? What is happening to our humanity? Have hospitals turned into monster places where one must avoid to go to? Have doctors forgot all manner and rights? What happened to the Hippocratic Oath of Do no Harm!