Lisa Baker at
Samaritan Hospital


Week 4

I WAS AT AN AUTO SHOP, about to pick my car after a service when the call came in on my cell phone.  It was a neurologist at Samaritan Hospital.  He had just reviewed the results of a second EEG done on Lisa.

“I’m afraid it’s not good,” he said, speaking with what sounded like an Australian or New Zealand accent.   The test, he said, showed a significant change from normal brainwave activity.

He said it was his opinion that there was little chance Lisa would ever regain consciousness.  Asked about the cause of this condition, he said he had no doubt that it was the hypoglycemic event of the previous week.

The neurologist’s findings, although not a surprise, were still a shock.  This had all happened so quickly.

That evening at the hospital I had a long discussion about  the EEG result with Lisa’s attending physician.  Based on her previously stated wishes and her current condition, we agreed that a do not resuscitate order should be placed in her chart. This would mean no steps would be taken to keep her alive if she were to have a heart attack or a stroke.

She was already had machines breathing for her and feeding her and would apparently stay that way for as long as she continued to live. She had always made it clear that she never wanted to be forced to stay alive on a machine, if for all intents she was already gone.

The doctor went out to the nurses’ station to write the order and to explain it to the nurses.

A moment later I heard a female voice yelling:  “No! No! You can’t do that!”

I heard the doctor’s lower voice.  And then the woman spoke again, still protesting a do-not-resuscitate order.

I recognized her immediately.  It was one of the nurses.  The last time I had seen her she was working on the fourth floor while Lisa was there.

DURING THE SECOND WEEK of Lisa's time in the ICU, an event occurred that affected her family almost as much as the horrific injuries she had received while in the care of the hospital.

On the Thursday, Lisa's parents came in to see her for the first time since she had collapsed.   Her father in particular was having a hard time dealing with the sudden change in his daughter's condition.  By this time Lisa was totally unresponsive, and the sight of her hooked up to the respirator and other machines was clearly distressing.  It had taken him more than 40 minutes after he arrived at the hospital to steel himself to walk into her room.

Just hours after the visit, Lisa's mother started having chest pains.  She was rushed first to St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, then to Albany Medical Center Hospital.

The doctors discovered and treated a blockage of the arteries to the heart and she was able to go home several days later.  But for a time Lisa's father was facing the real possibility of losing his wife of more than 60 years and his youngest child in the same week, perhaps in the same day.

Meanwhile, Lisa remained unconscious, with little change in her condition.  At the beginning of the week I had asked the attending physician if she could be transferred to another hospital.  I was alarmed by the missing records and the refusal of the hospital's management to give me any information about Lisa's collapse.  It was obvious they knew what had happened and that they didn't want me to know.

But the doctor said a transfer would be risky and could not be justified medically. So, reluctantly, I agreed to keep her at Samaritan Hospital.  I was still working a split shift and was in the ICU several times each day, some times before 6 a.m., sitting at her bedside with the steady rhythmic hissing of the machine that was keeping her at least nominally alive.

NEXT: A third EEG.  And Lisa's kidneys start to fail