Apr 22, 2009

An open letter to Annapolis Hospital and Dr. Wolcott

This week my mother was brought to your hospital by ambulance because she was having a difficult time breathing. She has gone through a lot over the last month and a half, having recently been sent home from U of M hospital after a failed attempt to repair a leaking mitral valve. My mother fought to have the ambulance return her to U of M but the rescue unit policy is “closest hospital”.

My sister, who lives very close to your hospital was in the ER within minutes of my mother’s arrival. She received Dr. Wolcott’s permission to stay with my mother. Understandably, my mother was quite agitated and afraid. My sister says that she was working with the staff to get my mother calm enough to use the oxygen mask. An ER nurse, whose name I never got, ordered my sister out of the ER because she said “you’re in the way here”. This was delivered in a very dismissive and mean tone of voice.

We then spent nearly two hours trying to get information and permission to go back and see my mother. I’ll refrain from speculating on the nurse’s motivations but from my side of conversations with her I could tell that she was not happy with us demanding information. I think she purposely took her time getting back to us as some sort of punishment. Don’t you have techs that could have relayed a message to us? It would have put our minds at ease to hear anything.

The ER nurse finally led us back to see my mother. What we found was my mother completely knocked out and hooked up to a ventilator. We were very upset and concerned and asked to speak to the doctor. Perhaps our reputation as trouble makers had already spread because when Dr. Wolcott finally came to talk to us he was very brusque and seemed irritated by our questions and requests for further explanations.

We spent 10 hours in the ER room before she was transferred to intensive care, which was now a necessity since she had a breathing tube. It took three days to get her out of intensive care because removing a breathing tube is no small feat. It stands to reason then that one would only insert one when absolutely necessary.

Our theory is that the breathing tube was not necessary. My mother’s anxiety and agitation was not acceptable to the ER staff. The doctor’s solution was to knock her out and stick a breathing tube down her throat. I have no absolute proof but I offer the following as support of our assertion:

One minute my mother is raising her voice and is very agitated (seems as if that would take some ability to breathe on your own) and the next she is on a ventilator. Dr. Wolcott’s report to us never included information about how she stopped breathing or even that she came close to it.

The respiratory therapist made an off hand comment that they were running out of ventilators in the ER. Does this imply some sort of overuse of this equipment at your hospital?

The U of M intensive care nurse, upon her admission there, without any prompting or discussion with us about her condition, said, “A breathing tube seems drastic. I can’t figure out why they put it in her. She doesn’t seem to be that bad.” Again, we had not said a word about our suspicions.

My mother’s vital signs were stable and strong throughout this ordeal, at least as far as I could see once I was allowed to be with her. The oxygen level on her ventilator was able to be lowered almost immediately. If she truly had been near death’s door wouldn’t you expect there to be some struggle to return to normal vital signs?

My expectations for medical professionals and institutions are that they show an appropriate level of concern, compassion and competency. I don’t expect infallibility but I do expect that the patient’s well being takes precedence over expediency and convenience.

To end this on a positive note, our family would like to personally thank the ICU nurse by the name of Anyssa. She was personally responsible for helping us get my mother transferred to U of M hospital. After nearly 24 hours of asking for it to happen with no action by the doctors, she made it her personal mission. She didn’t make it obvious that she was behind it either. She just wanted to help us do what was best for my mother. My advice to you is to make her the benchmark you use when hiring staff.


  1. Sadly,this doesn't surprise me.
    What with the tendency to label active children with 'ADD',and then load them up with Ritalin.
    Makes life a whole lot easier on every one but the patient.
    I'm curious about any response you may get from the hospital.

  2. Sling - I will be sending this to the hospital just to make sure we get some sort of response. The posting here is purely cathartic. But then maybe it will warn somebody off of that place.

  3. Another thought is once they intubated her they knew she would need to be admitted for at least a few days, could it be common practice to get patients admitted who they know have decent insurance? It would not suprise me. I too would like to know what their response might be -sc

  4. If you can, see if there's a board you can send your concerns to or find out who is responsible for making an inquiry official. I'd ask someone at U of M and contact an attorney. There are some who will direct you to the right place without a fee.
    My mother was in the ICU for quite awhile and when they first moved her they didn't contact anyone, including my father. She fell once she was there, was unconcsious, and still no one informed us; I found out when they were taking her in for a CT scan.

  5. Cousin S - I shudder to think that they could be motivated by that. I will let you know if I get an answer.

    Jeanna - We are starting with the patient advocate and will see where that takes us.

  6. Good luck to you, I met a dead end with the PA (they are first and foremost hospital employees in most cases), but everyone is different.

  7. Man oh man, this makes me mad!! I'm sorry you and your family had such a sucky experience there. And those doctors and nurses need to learn that even a little compassion goes a long, long way.

  8. Send it to the newspapers, the medis of all persuasions, to your local MP or whatever they are called. MAKE NOISE!!!The hospital will bury your complaint. My manuscript has multipletimes multiple examples of this. Your mum survived...next time you may not be there as quick...

    Be noisy and never leave your mum's side never never. except if she is taken to theatre.

    Much of the medical profession 9and I have many nurses in my family) function under medieval human rights...your mum and any relative has the best chance of someone is there 24/7 Never again will I allow anyone of my daughters to be in hospital alone... iof I have to bring in my own pillows and bedroll..easily done. They have no right to ask you to leave...as long as you remain calm and reasonable.

    Carry a small tape recorder and at the slightest sign of them being bolshoi put it on the bedside table and press record...that'll stuff the little shits. They can not stop you.