A Canadian mother-of-three died in agony in a Nova Scotia hospital after waiting nearly seven hours for emergency medical help on New Year’s Eve – and now her widowed husband is demanding answers.
Gunther Holthoff told reporters earlier this week that his 37-year-old wife Allison woke up on December 31 complaining of what she thought was an upset stomach.
He said Allison fell off her horse in September and has been in pain ever since, according to CTV News.
Throughout the day her condition deteriorated and after taking a bath the woman ended up writhing in pain on the floor.
Holthoff drove Allison to the Cumberland Regional Health Care Center in Amherst, arrived there shortly after 11 a.m., and carried her into the building on her back because she was unable to walk.
The husband then procured a wheelchair and took his wife to the emergency room. He said she had trouble sitting up because of the excruciating pain.
“I told the triage nurse and the lady behind the desk it was getting worse,” he said. “She was unwell and in pain.”
Hospital staff took blood and urine samples from Allison, which her husband says proved difficult as she was in so much pain at the time.
Allison was ordered to sit in the waiting room, but her condition worsened to the point where she had to lie on the floor in the fetal position.
As they waited for a doctor to see Allison, security guards brought blankets to cover her and a cup of water.
That’s when Holthoff said his wife started telling him she thought she was going to die.
“She said, ‘I think I’m dying. Don’t let me die here,’ he said on Monday.
At 3 p.m., the Holthoffs were finally ushered into an examination room, where more blood samples were taken from the patient.
Holthoff said he went to the nursing office five times, telling staff members his wife was feeling worse. He said one of the nurses asked him if Allison was “always like that”.
Allison’s eyes then began to roll in her head, prompting the nurse to ask her husband if the married mother was on drugs, to which he replied, “No.”
Holthoff said Allison kept saying she felt like she was dying.
Around 6 p.m. – nearly seven hours after the Holthoffs arrived at the hospital – Allison began screaming in pain and pleading for help.
Another nurse came to check his vital signs and found that his pulse was high and his blood pressure low.
“Everything happened quickly after that, everyone started picking up the pace,” the husband said. “It was the first time I really felt like someone was paying attention to us.”
Finally, Allison was seen by a doctor for the first time that afternoon, who was given intravenous fluids and painkillers. She then underwent an EKG and was taken to an x-ray room.
Holthoff briefly walked away, and when he returned, he said, he found his wife screaming, “I can’t breathe. I am suffering. Don’t move me.
Allison’s eyes rolled back into their sockets and a “code blue” was called, alerting doctors that a patient was going into cardiac arrest.
According to Holthoff, Allison was resuscitated three times, but it was decided not to operate on her because the chances of her surviving surgery were thought to be slim given her condition.
Holthoff said a doctor revealed to him that a CT scan showed bleeding inside his wife’s body, but its source could not be identified.
“They had a 1% chance of keeping her alive through surgery, but at that point there wasn’t much chance she would ever have a normal or dignified life,” Holthoff said.
After the husband and three children said their final goodbyes to Allison, she was officially pronounced dead at around 11.30pm – around 12 hours after she first set foot inside the emergency room.
More than a week later, Holthoff said he still doesn’t know his wife’s cause of death because her autopsy report has not been released, according to news outlet CBC.ca.
“Unfortunately, I feel like she was neglected and it was to a point where they couldn’t ignore us anymore,” the bereaved husband told reporters.
Following the tragedy, the woman’s family and several Nova Scotia politicians called on the provincial government to explain why the patient’s medical care was delayed for hours.
The Department of Health and Wellness said Monday that the Nova Scotia Health Authority has launched an investigation to determine what happened in Allison’s case.
“We need change, the system is obviously broken. Or if it’s not broken yet, it’s not too far,” Holthoff said. “Something has to improve. I don’t want anyone else to go through this.”