An RN’s Real Education


This post is dedicated to my mother, Shirley June Holderness.  I watched her die from medical errors in the southern California town of Loma Linda.  She fought valiantly for seven weeks to live, before succumbing to septic shock from the hospital acquired infections that the physicians refused to treat. She had just had her 66th birthday.

My mother was admitted to the hospital due to a heart attack. She had a stent placed and her heart function returned to completely normal functions.  It was the infections she caught in this hospital, and the refusal to treat the infections that killed her. On admission to the hospital, my mother was tested for infection in her blood, urine and sputum; these test reveled that she did not have any infection. The three infections she caught in the hospital were MRSA, Acinetobacter baumannii  and yeast. Laterher records revealed the physician ignored the lab results and refused to treat these infections for days before she went into septic shock and was put on life support, and even then the physician refused to give her the correct antibiotics for 12 more hours.

As an ICU RN I knew the mistakes they were making.  I begged for the correct treatment, and when the physicians refused,  I tried to transfer my mother out of there.  My mother’s regular physicians did not practice at this Loma Linda hospital, and they wanted her transferred to a hospital they practiced at. The physicians at the  Loma Linda hospital would not cooperate, they would not speak to my mother’s own physicians, or give them her medical chart, which is necessary before transferring. 

As if that wasn’t enough, when my mother died from this Loma Linda’s hospitals errors, I had to get the county coroners office to subpoena my mothers body and records out of the hospitals morgue. The hospital did not notify the crematory to come and pick up her body, although they had been given all the details several times and it was also noted in her chart.  I called the crematory the next day and was told the hospital never notified them, but they said they would send drivers to pick her body up immediately.  About an hour later, the crematory called me and apologized, “I do not know how to tell you this because it has never happened to us before, but the hospital refused to allow our drivers to pick up your mothers body. Our drivers told us that two physicians were in the morgue fighting over who was going to sign the death certificate.”  The hospital did not cooperate with my request either, so I had to call an attorney and get the county coroners involved. Even with the county coroners subpoena, it took three days for them to get my mothers records.

 I pursued a lawsuit in spite of many California attorneys telling me that this particular hospital, an ‘icon of the community’,  had the largest defense team in California, and ‘…they will make sure you spend more than you can ever recover…’ due to California’s outdated laws from the ’70′s.  My mother’s own physicians, that had known her a long time, told me I needed to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. I spent a lot of money, only to discover what all the attorneys tried to tell me was true. The medical industry lets you down because the legal industry already has.  I didn’t have enough money to continue. The attorney did not charge, but I had to pay for legal experts and other costs, and they are very expensive. California’s CAP laws are responsible for many cases of poor care, deaths and disabilities being swept under the rug, and by no means does this outdated law bring about improvements in patient safety.

I still have my mothers medical records with proof all of this happened, and will gladly share them in the right situation.

My real education as a nurse began the day my mother was admitted to this Loma Linda, California, hospital.

I  had the highest respect for my mother’s life, although the medical and legal community did not. She taught me to respect everyone’s life, and that is why this nurse will speak for the patients.

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19 Responses to An RN’s Real Education

  1. Pat Cannon says:

    Unfortunately I am a nurse and had a similiar experience with the death of my husband. I would love to know you. I want to warn others to be careful and take care of themselves because right now patient safety is not a priority. Medical care in America right now is in a sad state.
    Blessings to you I could feel your pain.

    • suzan-rn says:

      Pat, I am sorry to hear you and your husband went through this too. I am sending you an email. Sorry it took me this long to reply, but I am new to blogging and was having trouble figuring it out!

  2. John N. Gavin says:

    Very sad, but oh so familiar sounding. I too had acquired MRSA during a ceverical spine surgery. I developed an infection immediately at the surgical sight. Instead of doing a culture, the surgeon kept giving me different antibiotics for 4 weeks. At that point I could barely stand from the pain. It was attacking my spine and spinal cord. I was immediately admitted and was in surgery the next day. They had to repopen the sight and clean out all the infection. I was in for 11 days, 9 days of which I was on morphine. I then spent the next 2 months on 5hr a day antibiotics via my picc line. Due to complications I never worked again. Ive been on dissability for the past 5 years. Recently in March I had to have 2 levels in my neck fused. Same area I had the MRSA. The surgeon noted that all the bone in that area was pitted from the infection. Now I’m having to wear a bone growth stimulator 4 hrs a day because the fusion wont grow bone around the new implants. This could all have been avoided with a $30 culture the first week after surgery.

    • suzan-rn says:

      John, I am sorry this happened to you. Last year I had cervical spine surgery and was so afraid of spinal infections. I did not get an infection, but unfortunately my lungs hemorrhaged during surgery and I have been off work for a year now. I am sending prayers and positive thoughts your way.

      • John N. Gavin says:

        Sorry to hear that. Thats for the good thoughts. Have you gone online and applied for SSD yet?

      • suzan-rn says:

        Just last night. How was your experience with them? I am trying to get enough strength to go back to work.

      • John N. Gavin says:

        I was approved in a record 3 months. I did it all nyself. Theres so much paperwork. The big thing was detail. You dont have to supply all your records, just the names and numbers of all the Doctors, Hosptials, Clinics, Etc…They will request them directly as needed. They will be sending you another batch of forms where you list your daily routine. Kind of like a diary. Just be honest and upfront. They were very helpful. They will however take the 1st 5 months pay as a token of their After going from $80k/yr to zero, its nice to get the $1960/month now…

  3. Sara says:

    Susan, sincere condolences on the loss of your mother. What you are experiencing is a trend in the heath care industry across North America. Read about a man in Toronto, Canada who has been kept a virtual prisoner in a hospital. The 69-year-old man had a stroke over three years ago, and the doctors, instead of providing therapy and rehabilitation, drugged him with Haldol, Zyprexa, Respiradone and other drugs. When his wife and legal substitute decision maker tried to have him transferred to another facility the doctors in this hospital began a campaign against her. They tried to take away her legal authority, they claimed she was a danger to her husband — she has been under guard for 2 years every minute she spends at the hospital. It’s like Soviet Russia!

    You can read about this horrific case here.

    Now lawyers for the hospital and doctors have threatened a TV station who broadcast an investigative report on the man’s story. What’s happened to your mother and to this man is a deliberate effort to ignore and remove the rights of people to have control over what happens to them when they are getting medical treatment. You may email me if you wish further details.

  4. Joel says:

    Thank you for your story. I am linking to it from my site so that others may read it.

    I have a question. You say that they ignored lab results, refused to treat the infections until she went into septic shock, then refused to give her the correct antibiotics for another 12 hours, would not speak to her own physicians, would not produce her medical chart, etc.

    When you say that they refused, like when they refused to give her the correct antibotics for another 12 hours, what do you mean by refused? Did you or another person or some protocol suggest that they should but they refused?

    But my bigger question is whether these refusals accurately can be referred to as errors or mistakes. Is refusing to speak to the patients own physicians an accident? Is ignoring lab results a slip-up? Are the words “errors” and “mistakes” the right words for describing the problems affecting your mother? So that I don’t write a couple of more paragraphs here making my question clear, here is a link to a page about what I mean:

    Thank you for adding your story to the discussion.

    • suzan-rn says:

      Joel, yes, the cultures revealed what the HAI’s were (MRSA, A. baumanii and yeast) and also showed which antibiotics would be effective in treating these infections. It was ignored. My mother was on one broad spectrum antibiotic for weeks but it was not effective against any of the HAI’s, and the lab cutures and sensitivity revealed this). The physician just kept renewing the same one, even though it obviously wasn’t helping. The physician denied there was any other infection (if he had looked at the lab results, he would have seen it) and he refused to call in an infectious disease specialist, saying, ‘Your mother does not have infection.’ My mother had a fever of 103, green sputum, all the signs of early sepsis, went into late sepsis, was put on a ventilator, and he still refused to treat her with the appropriate antibiotics for 12 more hours. The new resident was so happy to tell me, ‘I got orders for antibiotics.’ I looked at him and realized he did not have a clue that a patient in late sepsis, respiratory failure and hemodynamically unstable had a very slim chance of survival. They had days to treat her and they did not. Failure to treat was really refusal to treat. A psychiatrist I know told me (after talking to doctors he knew at this facility) that this was murder, and that this physician should be in prison. He also told me that, ‘…everyone there knows it, and they are all suffering for it.’ I asked why he was not fired and he said, ‘..things are strongly intertwined and it is very difficult to get rid of a physician.’

      You are absolutely right, this was not an error or mistake. Your blog on nequamitis is spot on. Can I share this on forums and facebook?

  5. RB says:

    I am so sorry for your Mom. She had to have been a lovely, wonderful woman to have a daughter who fought so hard for her. I’m sure she would be very proud of you.


  6. Karen Garloch says:

    I am not a nurse, but I think my mother also died because of hospital personnel mistakes. If nurses can’t figure out how to navigate this system, how are the rest of us supposed to be able to “be careful” and take care of our loved ones?

  7. berry says:

    I am presently preparing my power of attorney and other related papers. It’s terrifying to think not only what might happen to me, but what my daughter would have to endure and live with. I say might, but I have seen enough to know the rarity would be that I would not experience something as described here on your site, or here:

    What would you advise people preparing their papers with end of life care to state, knowing now what you know? Is there anything you think might have changed outcome?

  8. Tragic case. Sorry for your loss. Please look at resources available on line including where a team of medical experts with extensive connections within the system will work to uncover the truth and bring it to the attention of all parties.

  9. Pingback: More stories emerge – doctors and hospitals refuse to treat or release patients – The View from One Canadian

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