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Calgary family desperate for answers following death of 26-year-old daughter

Calgary family desperate for answers following death of 26-year-old daughter
WATCH: It's been almost two years of grief and suffering for a Calgary family. They feel a broken health care system allowed a 26-year-old to fall through the cracks. Jill Croteau reports.

Two inseparable sisters are on a relentless pursuit for answers. They feel ignored by a health care system they insist failed 26-year-old Amanda Scharf.

Amanda’s mother Shelley said Alberta Health Services failed to provide proper care right from the start of her daughter’s heart condition.

“She was being treated for a paper cut and sent home with a band-aid — that’s ultimately how it ended,” Scharf said.

Scharf’s sister, Barb McTavish, felt her niece was never given a chance.

“I’m very angry and frustrated. I have had my faith in the system shattered and because there’s no concrete answers [for] why things went the way they did.
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“It’s hard to rationalize why this went like this in the first place,” McTavish said.

Amanda was 21 years old and living in Fort McMurray when she felt chest pains and was taken to the local hospital.

“She waited an hour and 46 minutes in the waiting room … to be seen while she was having a full-blown heart attack,” Scharf recalled. “Nobody came over to take vitals or did anything of an urgent nature.”

Following cardiac tests, she was immediately flown for care in Edmonton, the family said.

For the next five years, she was seen by specialists and physicians there. But her heart function kept decreasing and she was referred as an urgent case to the Heart Function Clinic in Calgary, the family said.

“It took the Edmonton cardiologist four weeks to push a button on a fax machine and send the urgent referral regarding someone with 31 per cent heart capacity,” Scharf said.

“She never lived to get to that appointment. She never met that cardiologist in Calgary.

“She was diagnosed urgent and still couldn’t get the care. We’ll never know if she received that care if we would have still have my niece,” McTavish said.

The family has written a number of letters to Alberta Health Services, including the patient complaint department and the health minister’s office. There have been some meetings but they feel no action has been taken to prevent something similar in the future with the patient intakes.

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 Alberta Health Services released a statement to Global News.

“We extend our thoughts and sympathies to the family and friends of Ms. Scharf. We are unable to comment on the specifics of this case, or on any patient’s history or condition, for privacy reasons and out of respect to the family. However, we have discussed the family’s concerns with them on a number of occasions, and are willing to talk with them again at any time. We did complete an internal review into this case, and have shared that information with the family.”

Brent Wittmeier, Minister Sarah Hoffman’s press secretary, released this statement:

“It’s always incredibly sad to see a young life cut short.

“No parent should have to experience the death of a child, and our thoughts and sympathies are with the Scharf family. We understand that Alberta Health Services has had multiple conversations with this family and have shared the results of an internal review. They are willing to speak with the Scharf family at any time.

“We have shared their concerns with the Health Advocate’s office. We remain willing to listen to the Scharf family and are happy to work with AHS to ensure their concerns about their daughter are heard,” Wittmeier said.

“It just isn’t easing,” McTavish said. “It’s been almost two years. I still cry almost everyday thinking about the fact she’s not here. There is no getting any of it back. There is no pretending.”

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