Teenager with Sickle Cell Anemia treated unethically by Texas Hospital.
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On Monday, January 15th, 2018, my 18 year old daughter was discharged and forcibly removed from Houston Methodist Hospital (The Woodlands). She's a Sickle Cell patient who was admitted less than 2 days earlier for Acute Chest Syndrome; a term used when Sickle Cell patients have pneumonia, respiratory distress and extreme pain.
She was treated well in the emergency room and was transported upstairs to the 6th floor within a few hours. While there, her care wasn't quite textbook but after a few phonecalls, orders were changed and she was finally comfortable enough to rest and start the lengthy recovery process.
For a Sickler; specifically Dakota, a diagnosis of Acute Chest Syndrome typically requires no less than 7days in the hospital but can take weeks. There's a lot of treatment that goes into keeping her comfortable and treating the infection in her lungs. Oxygen, respiratory exercises, oral medications, IV pain meds, IV antibiotics, chest xrays, labs, and quite often...blood transfusions.
In 18yrs, Dakota has been admitted close to, if not more than 75 times. The majority of those admissions were for Acute Chest/pneumonia, so one can assume she knows her way around a hospital and can pretty much anticipate how things will be done. The trouble started on the morning of day two. The hospitalist did a.m. rounds and told Dakota he wanted to send her home as he was worried she may pick up an additional illness while in the hospital. That's kind of him but without treatment and being discharged prematurely, Dakota would suffer and possibly die. Her body and lungs are quite damaged after years of pain crisis and countless pneumonia admissions.
Despite Dakota's pleas with the doctor, the discharge process was started. At this time, her hemoglobin was 7.9, she was on 2 liters of oxygen, her pain was 7/10 and she couldn't stand, sit up or walk without assistance. In 3 days she had only eaten an apple slice and had very little to drink. She was on a PCA which is a machine that sends a constant dose of IV pain meds with the option for her to administer extra dosages as her pain levels increase. Its safe, convenient and most of all, its best for a patient who has severe pain. Before a PCA machine is stopped, a patient should be weaned off that dose then given oral pain meds to ensure pain can be controlled before completely discontinuing narcotic IV orders. This wasn't done. Her nurse turned off the PCA and told Dakota that she could get oral pain meds soon.
Some time passed and Dakota asked for pain meds but was told she couldn't have any because her blood pressure was low yet these were the same oral meds she'd be expected to administer herself at home once discharged. How would that be safe if even the hospital wasn't comfortable giving this oral med? Yet they're suggesting she can take it alone despite her low blood pressure?!? The nurse was again reminded by Dakota and her fiancé that she was not well enough to leave and that she was just as sick as when she was admitted. Dakota asked how could she be discharged when she's still requiring oxygen to breathe comfortably? The nurse immediately removed her oxygen and said she'd return in a bit. 20 minutes later, her IV was removed and a woman who identified herself as an Administrator entered Dakota's room and proceeded to treat Dakota as if she were causing trouble by asking to hold off the discharge. She mocked Dakota, laughed at her and told her that if she didn't vacate the hospital, she would be facing trespassing charges. She had been discharged and there was nothing else to discuss.
Imagine feeling like you're unable to breathe, your body is in more pain than you can handle, you're weak, tired and scared...now, you have hospital staff threatening you and tossing you out on the street despite your obvious need for support and medical care. Two men and her nurse entered the room telling them they had 5 min to leave. A man from security reentered her room and escorted Dakota who was in a wheelchair and her fiancé, holding her belongings, down to the main doors. Her fiancé Sam went to get his vehicle and came back to find Dakota left outside in freezing conditions at the curb, alone.
This can't happen! Young, old, insured, or uninsured...hospitals have an obligation to provide care and once a patient is admitted, they should never be tossed out when a hospital hasn't met the minimum level of care expected. Discharging a person in the conditon my daughter was in, could've cost her her life. Not only has she been suffering needlessly but she's embarrassed and afraid to go back even though she's still very ill. She's at the mercy of the staff when she's admitted. She's weak, tired and in more pain than any person should endure...and the people who are trusted to help her, forced her out and threatened her with criminal charges as she pleaded for help. Please, help bring awareness to her story so this hospital can be held accountable. I don't ever want to see this happen to another chronically ill person, ever.
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