Today, I am going to begin to touch on these three (3) matters [I call them “matters,” because… they DO!]:
Humanity/The Current Standard/Medication Toxicity
Since the days immediately following Mike’s RISING [I need to stop using the word “passing” when I know that he rose], I was hit by others with questions such as, “What WAS it?,” “Just from following your daily battle, things looked wrong to me; are you going to sue?,” and “Ami! You need a lawyer; do you have a lawyer?”
Then, those questions INCREASED in intensity when I was calling numbers until I found actual humans on the other end of the phone… spoke directly with the pathologist for a second time, had a conversation with a detective from Risk Management [having no idea why I was sent to him to get the Toxicology request put in], and then ended up with the first… second… and third important meetings in a hospital conference room with the Chief Medical Officer, the Vice President, important doctors, and the Patient Advocate.
People would ask me, “Are you recording these conversations?” and “Do you have a lawyer going in with you?”
So today I feel compelled to address the need for HUMANITY in this area — even in facing the aftermath of a life-altering LOSS.
To view the original video story, you can watch here. To join the conversation via FB, just click on the “f” icon in the lower right corner of the video. If you have already watched this, just read on…
I couldn’t sleep after Mike died.
I had been rubbing his muscles around the clock for days and nights on end, paying attention with my mind on every tiny detail, name, face, reaction, and need. I … was … on … overdrive. I even would sit up in bed, with my eyes OPEN, and think he was on the floor beside me with his “help me” expressions.
A desperation for CONVERSATIONS began to drive me like you would not believe. I would not be shutting down until I had a voice. I would not internally rest until SOMEONE would hear the details playing out in my mind around the clock.
Questions I was asking myself were: “I don’t want a lawyer in between me and those doctors. We GOT TO KNOW THEM. They need to talk with me. So many people from that staff connected so much with Mike. They were heartbroken too. I need to SEE their faces.”
The conversations with the pathologist, the risk management detective, the patient advocate, and in the FIRST meeting, even the CMO and VP showed the truest glimpses of each leader’s HUMANITY.
I wish I could describe it all to you in detail, but we’d be here all day. Let me just pull out a few memorable quotes:
The pathologist who did Mike’s autopsy and I were in a phone battle over my demand for a Toxicology report. It became so heated that my kids went to the room farthest from me and closed the door. They were in pain every time Mom was fighting for Dad. I kept telling him, “I hate that you are getting this side of me. I hate that you even had to DO the autopsy. You and I should NEVER even be having to have a conversation with each other.”
After several variations of “no” and why they would and “could” not provide the report, I said to him in SOBS, “Michael Shroyer will be a file in a computer and papers in a cabinet to you; but He Was EVERYTHING to us!”
He interrupted me and let down his “work voice,” and I heard his passion, “Mrs. Shroyer. THAT is one thing that you have very wrong. I care about EVERY body that I work on, and I put great care into my work with Mike.”
“Then… HELP me.”
And his entire tone changed.
He gave me instructions and told me that I had to put in the request through Risk Management and be willing to pay for the report myself, but that if they still had blood samples, then he could do this for me.
I went to the Risk Management department and called the number. The secretary put me through to speak with a Detective with a strong, caring voice.
I began to explain my situation, and he sounded perplexed. I could tell from his, “You were told that the request would need to come from our department? Hmmm.” that he was confused and I had his full attention.
He asked me to tell him a bit of our story.
Then his voice began to quiver, “Ami,” he said, “I am one of nine siblings, and our father died in a hospital when I was young. We are all still alive today; I’m in my sixties now. Every time we get together, we still talk about how that changed our lives. I watched my mother age into a bitter woman with no answers. Ami, I am NOT going to let that happen to you.”
I wept with this man over the phone.
THINGS THAT WERE NOT SHOWING HUMANITY:
In those moments after Mike’s death [and the moments turned to 3 hours of my sitting there with his body until it grew cold enough for me to begin to accept that he would not be returning to live in it], not one doctor came into that room to console or to explain anything. No offer of water. Nothing. My brother and a few close friends were in and out of the room checking on me, but thinking back on that now, I think they can do much better.
Over the next days and weeks, cards came rolling in from friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers. The first piece of mail I received from the hospital was a medical bill. And they kept coming after that one.
I had to call to request the records. I had to call to request the autopsy report. I had to call for any and all of the beginnings of answer-seeking, conversation-starting, and to start my hope of bridge-building. If I hadn’t had the strength to make those calls, then nothing would have come to me.
Two changes that the leaders there told me were in direct connection to my voice:
1) Families who lose a loved one in the ICU now receive a sympathy card. [Shouldn’t that be standard?]
2) There are new policies in place about the mailing of autopsy reports to families [this one was NOT anything I requested or really care about. THEY. WERE. MAD. that I had actually seen the autopsy report before their whole team of doctors had even known it was complete. This was simply because of my persistent calls. I didn’t need them to explain it to me; I just WANTED it. I know friends who work in the medical field and pathology who were more than happy to help me. I just wanted to SEE how those tests came out and what was revealed.]
Two weeks after Mike had died, I began to ask friends that work in law about area lawyers that are reputable and solid. The same lawyer was recommended from four sources, so I gave it a shot, and I called.
What I found was MORE FRUSTRATION from another SYSTEM.
I knew that I didn’t have enough paperwork yet. But my call to the lawyer was to find out what I WOULD need to gather. In that initial 45-minute consult, however, I learned that medical lawsuits have dropped to a small handful in NC since a bill was passed in 2012 that placed a cap on the amount that can be awarded in a win. $500,000. Now most lawyers won’t touch them. He explained to me how the verbiage would go on the side of the hospital that would hold up in the courtroom and fall within a high-level standard of care [there was that phrase that I would hear again over and over in the final meeting from the hospital — which by the way, felt more like “Who am I talking with? These people aren’t acting like they were before. Where did they go, and why am I having flashacks to that first law conversation?”]. In the courtroom, having MORE doctor teams, and ALL the tests, and so MANY medications… is set on display as “Look how MUCH was done for this man! We did MORE for him than we have done for most. We tried everything. Nothing worked….” and then the way the paperwork is written, ‘proves’ it. [I found out more, months down the road. I’ll get to that in a sec.]
And while that made sense to me, he said, “Your only hope will be found in the Toxicology report.”
I said, “Well, when we were leaving the hospital on 12/2, we specifically requested an outside autopsy and for it to include Toxicology, particularly for the drugs used during the spinal tap. So I should have it in a few weeks.”
As time passed, and I was making those calls… and because the hospital also requested the autopsy, I found out that the autopsy ended up being done in-house [but I found out later that it would have been anyway, because the state sends them there, and within that pathology department, they keep them separated state/in-house]. That point scared me at first, until after all of the meetings, and I’ll explain why in a minute.
Back to the legal system:
The lawyer also told me that they can request money above the capped $500k, but that those amounts are determined by the tax value of the deceased. He asked me, “How much did your husband make last year?”
I paused and gave a discouraged chuckle.
“We’ve been starting a non-profit ministry for the last four years, and he has chosen not to take a salary while in this beginning phase.”
Lawyer: [sound of crickets] “Oh.”
Me: “So, are you telling me that Mike has no VALUE?”
Lawyer: “I know it sounds harsh, but on paper, yes.”
From this particular lawyer, I was NOT feeling the HUMANITY.
And I get that. SYSTEMS. Whatever. But a few months later, when I contacted him again, now having had a few meetings, and the Toxicology report, he wrote me back using the wrong man’s name [DETAILS MATTER, people!].
I took that as a serious sign to keep seeking out the open conversations. [BTW, the lawyer did apologize and told me that the name he wrote was his fishing captain — sometimes, things just make you have to laugh.]
I decided to just enter into FACE-TO-FACE CONVERSATIONS, if the hospital would have them.
This was in January as soon as I returned home from Christmas travel.
The first meeting was February 10th. Then March 14th. Then August 25th.
I’m going to have to separate this into posts.
Let me just end this one on HUMANITY by saying this:
I respect the years of education and hard work that people have put in to get to the positions that they are working in as a CMO, a Vice President, a Patient Advocate for over 30 years, a top-recommended lawyer in the area…
I chose to walk BACK into that hospital building soon after the most traumatic experience of my life because I was seeking the HUMANITY.
I know I caught it in strong glimpses.
I know there is MORE.
I think those meetings deserve their own post.
Then, I will tell you what happened next with the “to litigate or not to litigate” choice, and move into the things that support why I stand on Medication Over-toxicity as Mike’s cause of death, hoping that HUMANS will care enough to DO something about it…
Thanks for reading along.
The image at the top was taken at the end of the first of those hospital meetings.
This was taken from my car, as I was preparing to drive into whatever I was about to face.