Nina Hebert leads a busy career in addition to raising her three children. The Air Force recently relocated her family to California.
She lives with long-term epilepsy and has learned to recognize her symptoms when they occur and knows how to manage her condition. One January afternoon, she began to have trouble speaking and lost mobility on her right side. She knew she was having seizures and headed to the hospital with her husband.
An ambulance met them on their way, and emergency medics asked her about her symptoms. However, Nina could barely speak and was still in the midst of a seizure. Instead of recognizing her textbook symptoms of a partial focal seizure or listening to her husband’s explanation, the medics brushed off Nina’s symptoms and made comments insinuating that they thought Nina was under the influence of illicit drugs.
By the time they arrived at the hospital, Nina was experiencing full-fledged grand mal seizures. She could not move or speak, but she could hear medical staff making jokes about her seizures and making fun of her husband. She waited for 45 minutes to have a CT scan, and was given no medication. Nurses came and went, playing down the situation. There was no urgency to read the scan or to get Nina treatment. No one called her neurologist. The doctor insisted that Nina simply had a migraine and gave her migraine medication. Medical staff continually asked her for a urine sample to test for illicit drugs but did not administer tests that would have provided insight about her condition.
Nina knows from experience what is supposed to happen to treat seizures. The standard of care for treating is to administer Ativan, a seizure-specific medication, within 20 to 30 minutes of a seizure. But Nina waited for three long hours, going in and out of seizures, until she finally received medication. If the seizures had caused bleeding in her brain, it would not have been caught in time. The medical staff’s dismissal of her symptoms and failure to treat her promptly put her life in grave danger.
By the time she received the proper medication, the dose was too low and so much time had passed that it was no longer useful. She was discharged from the hospital with a medical report that she later realized was missing multiple pages. She could not walk and had a significant amount of neck pain.
Nina now lives with PTSD caused by the trauma of this experience. She never wants others to live through the nightmare that she did.
Californians will have the chance to vote on the Fairness for Injured Patients Act on the November 2022 ballot. The Fairness Act would update California’s medical malpractice damage cap for nearly 50 years of inflation, and allow judges and juries to decide fair compensation in cases involving catastrophic injury or death. Learn more about this campaign for patient safety.