WINNIPEG — When staff at Misericordia’s Urgent Care told Heidi Loewen she had suffered a mild stroke, she didn’t expect their next move would be to send her home in a cab. But the 82-year-old says that’s exactly what happened on Jan. 31.
That morning Loewen said she had been feeling flu-like symptoms, and after a phone call to her daughter was told that her speech sounded slurred. At her daughter’s urging, Loewen called 911. Paramedics arrived a short time later.
“I asked to be taken to the Health Sciences Centre or Victoria Hospital, but he said, ‘We always go to the nearest, that’s what we’re directed,’ and in this case it’s Misericordia,” Loewen said.
Staff at Misericordia Urgent Care ran some tests and Loewen said later that day she was told by the doctor on duty that she had suffered a stroke.
“He said ‘it looks like we had a small stroke,’ and I said, ‘Oh my goodness, what are we going to do now. what do you do?’ and he said ‘We don’t do anything. I want to give you an Aspirin and send you home in a cab,” Loewen says.
Shocked and still feeling ill, Loewen said her ordeal only worsened from there.
“I didn’t think it was my duty to almost crawl on my hands and knees to get to the apartment. I was hanging onto the wall and I virtually dropped everything … and threw myself onto the bed,” Loewen said.
She called her granddaughter over to help, and later, her son. Around 3 a.m. on Feb. 1, Loewen was awoken by the urgent need to go the bathroom.
“And that’s when I got really frightened, because I became incontinent for the first time in my adult life,” Loewen said.
As she tried to leave the bathroom, Loewen said, she fell.
“I crashed to the floor and that’s when I heard some cracking,” Loewen said. For the second time in 24 hours, Loewen was back in an ambulance. This time paramedics sent her to HSC, where she was told she had fractured her ankle and broken both her thumbs.
Loewen spent weeks in hospital and months in rehab. She called Global News after watching a story about another Winnipeg woman who died on her doorstep after she was sent home from Seven Oaks Hospital in a taxi in 2012.
“I thought, when I watched that story, that I had a duty to anyone who was experiencing something like this or would, and say ‘you know what, you fight like the dickens to get the services,’ because this is the new way — there is no room at the inn.”
A clinic report from April 20 indicates Loewen presented with stroke-like symptoms to Misericordia, and a CT scan later confirmed the presence of “subacute right basal ganglia ischemic infarction.”
Loewen said doctors at HSC told her she should never have been sent home in the first place, although that was never put into writing.
In an email statement Monday, a spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said they could not discuss the case due to privacy laws but did write:
“Decisions to discharge or admit patients are based on clinical judgment. The process of discharge from an emergency room or urgent care centre requires that any significant safety concerns raised by patients, families, and other members of the clinical team be addressed prior to patients being discharged.
“Overall, across the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, only about 12 per cent of patients arriving at emergency departments are admitted to hospital. By far the majority are discharged directly home. This admission rate is in line with national levels.”
WATCH: Lauren McNabb’s broadcast story from June 16:
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