Lisa Baker at

 Samaritan Hospital

On Thursday November 6, 2003, Lisa left her home for the last time.  That evening she went to the emergency department at Samaritan Hospital in Troy N.Y.because of what appeared to be a digestive problem related to her diabetes.   In the early hours of November 7 she was admitted and moved to a bed in the hospital's Progressive Care unit on the fourth floor.

After five days, Lisa's condition had improved.  On the evening of November 10 she told me one of her doctors had said she would probably be discharged the next day.

When visiting hours ended at 8 p.m. I told her I would see her the next morning. As I left her in the care of Samaritan Hospital she said she was looking forward to coming home, and we said goodbye.

It was the last time she would ever speak to me.

Week 1

THE CALL CAME IN  at about 2:20 on the morning of November 11, 2003.  The caller identified herself as a nursing supervisor at Samaritan Hospital.

"You should come over here," she said. "Lisa isn't doing too well."

I told her I would leave immediately. What could have happened, I wondered as I drove along Route 787.  Wasn't Lisa set to come home that day?

By the time I arrived at the building on Burdette Avenue I thought Lisa must have died and they didn't want to tell me over the phone.  As I walked toward her room, a woman broke away from a small group near the door. She said she was the nursing supervisor. I think she said her name was Corinne.  "They're working with Lisa," she said, and suggested we move to a small conference room next to the area near the elevators.

Lisa had collapsed, the supervisor said.  She had stopped breathing and had no pulse. She had been resuscitated and was now on life support.

And her blood sugar had been at 2.

Two milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood?  I was stunned  How could this have happened?  A level that low would usually be fatal.  Without a constant supply of glucose, brain cells begin to die in seconds. A person can  survive unharmed without oxygen for several minutes, but not without the body's energy, glucose.

What Corrine didn't tell me was that earlier in the evening, just after I had left, Lisa's blood sugar had dropped to 55 mg/dL, just below what the hospital's own protocol lists as hypoglycemic, and that she had been given glucose through an IV.  I wouldn't learn about that, and what had been done for a patient who was clearly at risk, until weeks later when some of Lisa's records were handed over.

As we talked, several staff members rolled a bed past the conference room. A thick tube was sticking out of Lisa's mouth, an IV bag was hanging from a pole. On the bed I saw a chart and one of those plastic bags they use for patients' possessions.

"They're taking her to the ICU," Corinne said.  "After they get her set up you can see her."

Twenty minutes later I was in a room in the ICU when a very big man came in and began to check the respirator. He said he was a respiratory therapist and had been involved in the effort to resuscitate Lisa.

"Do you know what happened," he asked.  "They said her blood sugar was at two.  It’s nice to win one but this is one we shouldn’t have won, but we did.”

NEXT:  A doctor says medical records are missing from Lisa's chart