August 6, 2012
New York Times writer, Anemona Horticollis has written yet another telling story. The Short Life and Lonely Death of Sabrina Seelig describes why entering a hospital could be hazardous to your health.
Sabrina Seelig was a writer, a student and came from a family of artists. Both of her parents previously taught at the University of Art in Philadelphia and then moved to an artists’ colony in Maine. Sabrina eventually moved to my hometown of Brooklyn, New York in a neighborhood that was changing. Like many New York neighborhoods, Bushwick has experienced significant transformation and revitalization, thus attracting young professionals, students and artists. Unfortunately, the neighboring hospital remained unchanged and had been cited for mismanagement, was under investigation by the Brooklyn District Attorney and didn’t carry medical malpractice insurance. Had Sabrina had known those facts; they might have saved her life.
According to The New York Times, Sabrina took Ephedra (a stimulant) to stay awake all night so that she could write her Latin paper for school. She also took an herb called Valerian. Feeling sick, she contacted the public health Poison Control Center after calling an ambulance that never came. The Poison Control Center wasn’t that helpful and basically told her to wait for the ambulance. It’s not clear how Sabrina arrived at Wyckoff Hospital but a cascade of unfortunate events sent her to the grave:
- She was given a sedative that made her sleepy although she had taken Valerian
- Her wrists were bound in restraints
- She was never given oxygen
- She lie on a small hospital cot unresponsive for over 12 hours
- She never received a breathing mask or tube
- She was never transferred to the ICU
- There were few notes written in her medical chart
- She did not have vital signs recorded for over 3 hours despite the fact that she was unconscious
- Her parents had her transferred to another hospital but by that time she was brain dead
- The nurse involved stated “writing vital signs were unnecessary because she was watching the cardiac monitor. “
- Her family had a challenging time finding an attorney who would take the case
- A jury found the hospital not guilty and made snide comments about Sabrina’s alleged drug use
As a physician and parent, I am outraged about the death of Sabrina. Wyckoff Hospital should be shut down immediately.
There are two lessons to be learned from this case. (1) Know your hospital. There is a chapter in The Smart Mother’s Guide that addresses this issue. If a hospital does not carry medical malpractice insurance, RUN in the opposite direction; and (2) to quote Sabrina’s dad, “Never enter a hospital alone.”