It has been 11 years since the day I found my 11-year-old daughter Leah, dead next to me in her hospital bed. And though I haven’t spent those years attending medical school, I do now have a much better understanding of what happened during the 30 hours my child was in the hospital than I did 11 years ago when my nightmare started. It was a “ perfect storm “ of mistakes and miscommunication.
I am writing this today, as a 55 year old woman who has lived every one of the 4015 days since feeling responsible for my daughter’s death in my heart and on my conscience.
I know I will win the battle to make electronic monitoring mandatory for all patients on opioids. I know this because I know I will not give up. And because many medical professionals agree that monitoring should be the standard. But the battle within myself, over how I failed my baby, that battle continues.
Over the years, there have been moments of comfort, moments when the logical Lenore could tell the mommy in me that it wasn’t her responsibility. There was a nurse I encountered at another hospital who happened to be in the room the night Leah died: “We all knew they killed that beautiful child,” she told me. And there’ve been doctors I’ve worked with in my advocacy who, looking at Leah’s chart, have found it unbelievable there was no effective accountability. In these moments there is some relief for me.
But the larger truth is that when you bring your child to the hospital, and stay with her every minute only to have her die next to you, it’s a nightmare. And when this happens and everyone involved insists no mistakes were made – “an unusual reaction to medicine,” “an undetected heart problem” (neither of which was found in autopsy) – it is left to the mother, me, to be the one responsible for not being able to save her baby.
No amount of money would have made Leah’s death less awful. I have said, if morality ruled the courts, the people responsible would have been morally expected to take care of Leahs two sisters. Her death changed their lives drastically. But it doesn’t work that way.
What might have helped? First, telling me the whole truth. Admitting what happened. Making an apology. And giving me the ability to breathe without this weight on my heart for the rest of my life. Little to ask, it seems, for all they took.
And then I want them to help me; to work with me and others like me; to use my experience, my advocacy and my total commitment to together prevent one more family from having their lives ripped apart by the needless loss of a beloved child.
I will work with anybody. And I am ready tomorrow.
Executive Director, Leahslegacy.org
Patrice Morris says
First and foremost my heart felt sympathy to Lenore Alexander and family. As I sit here blogging for the first time ever, I shake with anxiety. One year ago today I was simply walking down the stairs inside my home and broke my tibia and fibula near my ankle. I went to the hospital by ambulance around 3:00pm and after the X-ray determined the severity of my injury, the pain medicine began! In the ER I had reacted poorly to the medicine (very nauseous) and that pain medicine stopped and another was administered when I was admitted a few hours later. I was suppose to be operated on the next day, however it was postponed due to the nurse overdosing me. Throughout the evening I was given pain meds. without being monitored with a pulse oximeter by the following morning I was COMPLETELY out of it and my husband thought perhaps I was just tired from not getting much sleep. Unbeknown to me I was taken for a CT Scan that morning and the tech. told my husband “Your wife is really out of it”. When I was brought back to my room my husband went to speak with someone at the nurses station about the surgery I was going to receive that day. While at the nurses station my husband heard a doctor say “Is that your wife in there, I just tried several sternum rubs and she is not responding”.
As I said before, I had never been monitored with something as simple as a pulse oximeter, and had never voided since I entered the hospital the day before at 3:00pm. So with ALL the pain meds. going in and not voiding any urine, I was overdosed and my oxygen level was slightly below 30 when the doctor happen to check on me. Narcan was given to me and I ended up in CCU because I had aspirated vomit into my lungs. After 2 operations and 4 months of recovery, I went back to the hospital to speak with a patient rep.. He explained that it is not the “normal” procedure to have a patient monitored with a pulse oximeter, and that the nurse was following the orders from the doctor. Since than I have found out that a 16 yr. old healthy male died from the same hospital after a doctor in the ER gave him pain meds. for a football injury and sent him home. His sister thought he was just sleeping on the couch, but unfortunately he passed in his sleep that same day.
THIS HAS GOT TO COME TO A STOP…PATIENTS NEED TO BE BETTER INFORMED BEFORE ENTERING THE HOSPITAL, AND HOSPITALS NEED TO DO WHAT THEY ARE INTENDED TO DO, HELP NOT HURT!!
You already know I believe in what you are doing. I think back on my nursing career and remember so many nurses commenting on needing a ‘real’ monitoring system with a monitor tech watching 24/7.
Thank you for sharing your feelings here, it is important the ones that ignore responsibility know what that does to the ones left grieving. However, I wish I could erase your guilt; that is not yours. You would not have dreamed of doing the surgery yourself and you could not do the hospitals work yourself either. Nurses know that no one can do a nurses job alone, no one. It takes a team. You simply could not make up for all their system and human failures. No one person could.