Lisa Baker at
Samaritan Hospital


Week 3


ON THE SUNDAY, FIVE DAYS AFTER LISA COLLAPSED, I took her hand and asked her to squeeze it.

She did.

I asked if she knew who I was, and to squeeze once for 'yes'.  And again I felt her grip on my hand.

It was a startling moment.  I had just heard from one of the nurses that Lisa had been responding to simple requests.  Because she had made no discernible effort to speak, I had seen no sign that she was aware of where, or even who she was.  Now I had a clear indication that she was conscious of her surroundings. That meant that she would have heard at least some of the conversations about her condition, and about what had happened to her.

I tried asking more questions, but she seemed to be tiring and stopped responding. I told her I would try again the next day.

It was not to be.  At around 1 the next morning a nurse in the ICU called to say Lisa's condition had deteriorated.  She had become unresponsive and was having increasing difficulty breathing.  She had been placed back on a respirator.

It appeared that there had been a significant change in Lisa's condition.

At first the nurses in the ICU were very cautious and said little about how Lisa's injury might have occurred.  But after a couple of days, some of them began to reveal about was evidently being said in the department and on the fourth floor: Lisa, already borderline hypoglycemic, had mistakenly been given insulin.

Maybe someone misread the chart and restarted an insulin drip that had been discontinued the day before. Or perhaps Lisa was given a syringe shot that was really meant for another patient.  Either way, she was now critically injured and would likely never regain consciousness even if she survived. I sensed that there was both sadness and anger that someone on the hospital staff might have caused such a thing to happen.

And in the eight years since then the hospital has not offered any credible independant explanation for what happened.  Meanwhile, one of the ICU doctors would later say that something clearly had gone wrong that night, and that he hoped the family would investigate.

More on that later.

The ICU staff certainly did everything possible for Lisa.  And one of the ICU nurses had actually spoken to her the day before she collapsed. This was after several attempts had been made to insert an IV needle.  At that point someone said they should call Sharon from the ICU; Sharon would be able to start the IV if anyone could.

Sharon came up a few minutes later and got the line in at the first try.

Two days later, Lisa was on life support.

"I work here," Sharon said to me one day in the ICU, "and I see what happens.  I've told my husband, if you get sick, don't come to Samaritan Hospital."

NEXT: Bad news from an EEG.  And the nurse who didn't want Lisa to have a DNR order