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Open Letter: They Killed My Dad . . .
United States Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
10th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room 5643
Washington, DC 20530RE: Open Letter (Information Previously Submitted)
“Is that the telephone ringing?” It rings a couple of more times.
I turned over a few times and attempted to continue to sleep. But the ringing persists. I asked myself, “Am I sleeping or is this just a dream that somehow involves a ringing telephone?”
Next, I hear a soft, but half-sleep female’s voice coming from the second floor of our family dwelling. There’s no phone on the second floor. My wife standing at the top of the stairs offered to come down and answer the phone. Although tired, she realized my need for sleep. That is, I had arrived home just an hour or so earlier. Because I didn’t want her to make the journey downstairs, I jumped up to my feet from the sofa, stumbled across the corner of the coffee table, and rushed to the telephone.
“Babe, I have it!” I told my wife as I took a seat at my desk and looked to the telephone’s caller-ID. “UPMC University of Pittsburgh Medical Center” was displayed. “The hospital. Oh no!” I pondered. Quickly, I grabbed the phone. “May I help you?” The nurse on the other end, with a collected voice, immediately replied, “Get down here.” She continued, “Your dad . . . His heart stopped! There was a struggle . . . You have to come back to the hospital!” As she attempted to explain, I smacked the shit out of my forehead with my left hand, fell a little further back into the chair, and shouted, “What da fuck?”
There was so much now running through my head, so many questions I wanted to ask, but the only words I could muster were, “Is my dad breathing . . . Is he okay?” There was a slight hesitation from the nurse. I sensed there was something more this nurse wanted to tell me. But she stopped. “This isn’t good?” I mused. “He’s breathing. Just get down here.” She would soon add. I told the nurse “I’m on my way” to conclude the call.
Now standing, I looked across the dark room for any answer. I screamed out loud, “Damn!” I had just left my dad less than an hour ago. He was in excellent condition. In fact, he was in the best condition that I had witnessed during his seven-day stay. He was normal again, The condition he was in when he was admitted. “Shit!” I screamed. “They’d killed him! Why? Is it because I told them I was taking him home in the morning?”
I couldn’t tell my wife and kids because I really didn’t know what to say. I decided to wait until after I got dress. But getting dress, only took a few minutes. I put the same dark suit back on (without the tie) that I had wore earlier that evening. Really, I just didn’t have time to think about what I needed to say. So, I grabbed my keys and ran for the door. Because the lights were still off I stubbled a second time, this time over my youngest son’s big wheel. Frustrated, I looked up the stairs from the floor to see if I had disturbed my wife and kids. My wife was still standing at the top of the steps. She knew something was wrong. She asked, “Are you going back to the hospital?” Before answering I took a brief moment to finish putting my shoes on. I just didn’t know what to say. It reminded me of the day my oldest brother died. I had received the call from his lady friend and had to call and inform my brothers.
I attempted to explain to my wife what appears to have happened at the hospital, but abruptly stopped. I just turned away, telling my wife, “I don’t have time to go into the details . . . Please call my mom.”
Now in the family vehicle I raced to the hospital. Continuously, I banged my fist on the steering wheel as I drove. “Why? I asked. I did pray to my God. I asked for courage and wisdom to deal with the situation. I also made what might have been an inappropriate request, I asked my God to sacrifice any good he planned for me in exchanged for my dad’s recovery. I just wanted my dad to live. He enjoyed life so much. He was really looking forward to turning ninety.
The streets were empty. It was almost five a.m.. The drive took longer than I wanted, giving me too much time to think about things. As I pulled into the hospital parking area tears finally begin to fall. I did choke up because I knew and I realized exactly what they had done. I didn’t even park the vehicle. In a rush I jumped from the driver’s seat and screamed to the guard “I have to get upstairs!” At first the security guard didn’t say anything. All I remember is it appeared he went running to the vehicle. He probably was just too busy running to the van to place it into park. I didn’t turn back to look. But, I did hear him say, “just go!”
With tears streaming from my eyes, I ran through the hospital, up the escalator, onto the elevator, and down the hall to my dad’s room. It took less than five minutes to get from the parking area to his floor. As I approached, I was first greeted by a nurse who had been assigned to sit many nights with my dad. She was a large Caucasian woman, aggressive, and proudly loud. I listened as she explained my dad’s final moments. Thereafter, the head nurse of that unit, who had placed the earlier telephone call, quickly pulled me away and led me into my dad’s room.
By now they had removed the “code blue” instruments from the room. The head nurse put her arm around me and handed me a box of tissue. At first, I wanted no parts of her sympathy. I pulled away and turned toward the private bathroom in the corner. I shook my head with disgust after noticing the soiled towel and wash cloth that I had used earlier in the evening to clean my dad, still on the bathroom sink. “They didn’t even clean?” But, the head nurse was persistent. This time she grabbed me and extended a full hug. I noticed that she had a couple documents in one of her hands. Soon, she would hand me a copy of what she identified as my dad’s lab results and explained “the only lab work done that past week had clearly indicated no prostate cancer.” She added “Don’t leave your dad’s body, and don’t let the hospital perform the autopsy.”
In short, I had complained in writing to the hospital, just a day or so earlier, about my dad’s stay. I explained that he was hospitalized, over my objections, for elective care. The hospital had failed too diagnosed an apparent hernia for more than a year. A medical condition that wasn’t bothering my dad, but for suspect reason the hospital now wanted to correct before it developed into a problem. The night my dad was admitted the hospital promised that it would only take a day or two. But it was now the seventh day. In fact, it appeared the hospital had failed to do anything during his stay. That is, they kept my dad heavily sedated until his last night. My complaint had identified that during my dad’s first two nights hospital staff didn’t change his bedding, i.e., I found my dad often sleeping on urine soiled sheets. The complaints also had questioned the excessive amount of medication, lack of exercise, and unnecessary delay in treating the hernia. In fact, I specifically explained in my writing that hospital physicians previously diagnosed (treated for more than a year) my dad’s hernia as prostate cancer -- a condition that the current physicians now claimed as impossible (explaining the prostate is too far away from the upper abdomen hernia). I additionally advised the hospital that I had already submitted a complaint, months earlier, to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania alleging Medicare fraud. That is, it appeared the hospital’s physicians were running up a Medicare bill but not treating the alleged prostate cancer (hernia).