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!
I fully understand your anger, frustration and sadness. I went through similar battles with both my parents. Hospitals see patients as cash cows. When my Dad passed away in 1995 every time I went to the hospital to see him they were giving him some kind of stupid test that he did not need since he had terminal cancer. His day to day care only improved because my cousin had a friend who worked there and my aunts and I were on their case every day. One day I went to see my Dad and they had him test that is normally meant for women!! I ran down to that department to intercept him but they had already given him the test. Because he both Blue Cross/Blue Shield plus Medicare they just continued to give him tests without my permission. Also they did not cut up his food so I had to rush from work to feed him. I worked during the day. Finally after he died May 13, 1995 a few weeks later I got a call from the hospital saying that the surgeon was ready to operate on him. I told that lady my Dad was now in a place where he longer needed their help. The stupid hospital did not even check their own records! He died in the hospital.
My mother’s case was even worse. Unfortunately I could not take care of my mother in my small apartment even though I bought her to my home Friday, Saturday, & Sunday. One day I went to the nursing home and she was yellow! Her eyes were yellow. Now my Mom was light-skinned so I could not understand why the workers did not think something was wrong. I made them call 911. Mom was rushed to the hospital where she was diagnosed with gall stones. Well when they operated to remove said gall stones the doctors saw she had cancer which had spread. How do you confuse gall stones and cancer. Also this hospital never seem to have adult diapers nor did they bathe my Mom. I did all until her conditioned worsened and she went to the ICU. There she received excellent care. Sadly both my parents died at young ages. My Dad was 65 and my Mom was 68. Towards the end of both their lives I prayed for God to take them home with him because the suffering was so horrendous.
A horrible truth but hospital doctors sometimes enjoy torturing patients based on how good their insurance is. Once I reached my 50s I found myself in various E.R.s in New York and I can tell you this much don’t get sick have be in a City hospital. Hopefully I will live longer than my parents. Those experiences in themselves scared me into lifestyle changes.
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Oh I am so sorry to read your troubles! It is terrible how messed up our medical system is. You are very right about the cash cows… I requested all Medicare bills–hospitals bill as group so when they bill for say MRI services, they may bill for 20 doses and no names attached. The whole system is rigged to use up all Medicare money. I actually notified a Medicare investigator to check my mother’s case. I received bills for ambulance wait times when the hospital was not ready…. really? My mom was responsible for hospital delays? It went to collection at which point I proudly with red letter wrote on the pay her place “please request her check from heaven”… honestly. Just disgusting and makes me sick to my stomach. I have yet to find one family who did not have a horrendous experience in hospitals. No I am a PhD in the field of medicine so you would think I have more power to stop this craziness! And no! Even I could not! So I can imagine how it must be for others who have no power at all over the medical system! I am very sorry for you and wish you well! I hope I can bring justice to my mother and help others prevent the tragedy we both faced! Hugs!
During your mother’s ordeal, we exchanged many words on this. So this time, I’ll restrict myself to only respond to your questions in the last paragraph of this sad story. It’s what I call Indifference Syndrome (IS). Many, many years ago I saw this coming, and now it matured to a full blown pandemic! Add to this Hypocrisy Addiction (AD), and you get the messy situations your poor mother had to endure.
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Yes, I fully agree Roald. It is my inability to figure out how to bring justice to the injustice and how to stop those in the medical system who don’t care and hurt people left and right when the system is rigged by the medical industry such that law suit are impossible and where Big Pharma controls the outcome of people. My effort against Big Pharma works at least in my migraine group–now getting close to 900 in strength, where people read my Fighting the Migraine Epidemic book, apply the non-medicinal, non-herbal, non-supplemental approach and their migraines are fully under control. Big pharma is not needed. Everyone in the group is coming off of all of their medications to be in control of what they do and what they find out is that after they dropped all their medications and went on the protocol of ionic balancing they have no more pain. It is insane how the medical system and Big Pharma rules. I am sad that my mother’s case has been so outrageously destroyed by this law firm—I hope the negative reviews will hurt them back in return. I cannot bring my mother back. She suffered more than most prisoners do but people here seem to care more of the rights of prisoners that of people who are not criminals.
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Taking Big Pharma’s market away is the way to go.
By helping these people getting rid of their migraine, you also significantly enhanced the quality of their lives. And that I consider even more important.