Another family is raising questions about the death of a loved one who attended the emergency room of Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH).
John Hehn, 85, fell down the stairs of his Aldergrove home on Thursday, May 18, striking his head on the ground. Hehn was taken in an ambulance to ARH where, despite being diagnosed with facial fractures, he was told to take Tylenol and released. The next day, Hehn, in severe pain, was brought back to ARH, where he was diagnosed with fractured vertebrae in his neck. On May 20, he went into cardiac arrest while undergoing a CT scan, and was put on life support. He died later that day.
After John fell, his wife Shirley called the couple’s daughter Carleen, who lived nearby. She arrived to find her father lying on the floor, but conscious.
“He said ‘Just don’t panic, don’t panic.’ ”
While John wanted help with his legs, Carleen wasn’t sure she should be touching or moving her father. But when paramedics arrived, Carleen said they had John walk out of the house to a gurney, a decision she now questions.
At the hospital, a CAT scan detected no brain bleeding, and Carleen was told “there was no medical reason” to keep John overnight.
“I was shocked,” she said.
Told John could return home, and not knowing about his broken neck, his family tried to lay him down. The next day – which saw him spend a day in pain at home, without use of his legs or arms – was “absolutely awful,” said Shirley Hehn, John’s wife of 66 years. Only the next day, after the family had brought John back to hospital, did a second doctor perform X-rays that revealed the true extent of the injuries.
The first doctor, Carleen said, “should have been more thorough and the doctor the second night told us that,” she said. “He said there are certain protocol for tests you do for that trauma.
“Even without the broken neck they found my dad had, he said he should have been kept overnight for observation.”
Carleen said “everybody loved” her father.
“He was such a kind man,” she said. “He would help anyone.”
The Hehn family is close, with Carleen, her sister, and the pair’s four children all living in close proximity to John and Shirley.
And although John was in the first stages of Alzheimer’s, Carleen said he was looking forward with optimism.
“Just a couple days ago, he said, ‘How many more years until I am 100?’ ”
Fraser Health says it has been in touch with the family and is reviewing the circumstances of the death.
“We have been in touch with the family to offer our condolences and to let them know we are conducting our review,” spokesperson Tasleem Juma said.
Any changes recommended by the review will be shared at a later date, according to Juma.
The family has also filed a complaint with the patient care quality review board.
John isn’t the only person this year to be sent home from ARH only to die days later.
In February, three-year-old Nimrat Gill died at ARH from a rare and aggressive infectious disease. She had been brought to hospital by her parents a day before she died, but was sent home. Her parents brought her back the next day as her symptoms worsened. She died on Feb. 7. In April, Fraser Health said the death had been caused by invasive group A streptococcal disease. A review of the death led to several changes in how staff assess pediatric patients.
Also in February, 56-year-old Mary Louise Murphy died several days after she went to hospital complaining of chest pains, only to be told she was experiencing a muscle spasm and sent home.
In January, James Milne was sent home from the ARH ER with the “stomach flu,” only to be later diagnosed with a ruptured gall bladder and told he would have died in three days had he not visited his family doctor.
Since those issues, the province has announced that the hospital’s ER would receive a $15 million expansion.
Despite the high-profile incidents, the rate of complaints from ER patients at ARH hasn’t risen in recent years, though, according to numbers obtained by The News.