For two weeks, as he suffered, Walter Froebrich tried his best to get help. The Torontonian allegedly visited St. Joseph’s Health Centre, a hospital in the city’s west end, three times in 10 days before his death.
“The hospital dropped the ball with him. They could have done more or stepped up and delve into really what his issues were, but they chose to send him home,” said John Romanelli, a longtime friend of Froebrich.
The last time Romanelli had seen Froebrich was three weeks before his death. He noted that Froebrich had lost a lot of weight and complained about serious pain in his abdomen. A couple of days later, the 45-year-old Froebrich was at the hospital, dealing with severe abdominal pains. His friends claim that he was denied admission, with doctors and staff resisting looking deeper into his pains — they said he was sent home with antibiotics.
But, the pain persisted. Froebrich was back at the hospital a few days later, this time in more pain. His friends claim that trip, he was given antibiotics.
Then it happened for a third and final time. But, this time, Froebrich was found by friends dead inside his apartment.
“We’re devastated, he fell through the cracks. He couldn’t advocate for himself, and the poor guy was sent home to die,” said Romanelli.
The calm demeanour of the head-banging metalhead could’ve been used to deny him services, according to Romanelli. He noted that Froebrich was a man of few words, and instead of staying to fight to have his alleged internal tears looked at, he went home.
“He was in unbelievable, unbearable pain and they just sent him home,” said Romanelli. “I think that’s one of the reasons he fell through the cracks, because he couldn’t advocate for himself.”
Global News contacted Unity Health Toronto, which operates St. Joseph’s Health Centre, and was told the hospital does not discuss individual cases.
“While we cannot share or discuss patient information publically, we would encourage the patient’s loved ones to reach out to Patient Relations so we can connect with them directly,” wrote a Unity Health Toronto spokesperson in an email.
On Saturday afternoon at a rally outside St. Joseph’s, metal music raged on, with friends of Froebrich’s holding placards reading ‘Justice for Walter’ and ‘Sent Home to Die’ among others. The frustration that the health-care system had failed their friend because he was poor and soft-spoken was evident among the crowd.
“It’s a crushing blow to have a friend die from something that was completely preventable. He just didn’t want to upset anyone. He’s the nicest guy I’ve ever met in my life,” said Philip Villeneff, a high-school friend of Froebrich.
While he had known Froebrich for the past 25 years, Villeneff shared a common love of metal music with him.
“You’d always see him at shows in Toronto, every show you go to, you’d see Walter in the crowd, take a picture with him, have a drink with them, have a good time,” he said.
Walter wasn’t just a member of the metal community in Toronto, he represented the joy and unbridled passion for the music and culture, according to his friends.
The metal community is a tight-knit group, one that has people come in and out, but Froebrich was a staple and, according to dozens who showed up to the rally, a sign that a good night was on the horizon.
“He was just a huge fan of music and everything to do with it and everybody that liked it. The metal community is a community where we all love each other and take care of each other. It’s a devastating blow,” Villeneff said.
While he didn’t have any immediate family that he was close to, the metal community quickly became what mattered most to Froebrich, according to friends.
“He considered all the metal and punk community and music scene of Toronto to be his family and we’re here for him because he needs a voice,” said Romanelli.
Amplifying the challenge that Froebrich went through in his last two weeks is integral to his friends, who say there needs to be change. Romanelliadded that Froebrich was going through tough times and not working due to his pain, and he thinks he was treated differently because of his economic status.
“I think it was a factor, his status, his wealth, he was just a working man,” Romanelli said.
And while Froebrich’s friends are raising their voices over his struggles, they believe it’s not an isolated situation. Since talking about Froebrich’s death publicly, Romanelli said he’s received dozens of messages from those who also say they’ve been denied service or had loved ones turned away only to die later.
“This is not just about Walter, this is about the crumbling health-care system. Walter is just one of the people that lost his life at this hospital,” Romanelli said.
Froebrich’s friends have organized a benefit show in his honour at the Rockpile on January 6, 2023.