Upon returning home on the evening of November 28th I was greeted by the strong stench of dog feces and urine coming from the kitchen. I had been under the impression that my son’s girlfriend’s father had been keeping Carmella, my dog, in Athens at a local dog spa and that she was being well cared for. I found her with a small dish of cheap dogfood and what seemed to be a week’s worth of mess underneath the kitchen table. Near the garage door and laundry room was some bloody diarrhea that was nearly liquid.
Cleaning all this up while sitting in my wheelchair proved nearly impossible but I couldn’t just leave it there, so I did my best to stand and in doing so fell, almost landing in a puddle of urine. The smell was overpowering even after my best effort at cleaning, as the linoleum is porous unlike the type they used to make and absorbs like a sponge.
I was relieved to be home in my own bed, but the silence was deafening after the steady hum of conversation in the hallway at the hospital.
Sleeping was fitful and unrestorative between the residual odor emanating from the kitchen and my autonomic instability.
Wires got crossed and home health didn’t show up until sometime later the following week, as apparently they had not been notified by the hospital that I’d been discharged.
By Thursday, December 3rd I was in a bad way. The night had been one of the worst since I’d been discharged from Piedmont and I called the home health agency as soon as they were open to ask that they send a nurse out, as I was feeling really faint along with nausea and the feeling that I was going to lose all bowel control at any moment. The Care Coordinator, Daria wasn’t in and somebody else was working that day in her place, and I was told they couldn’t get a nurse to my house on such short notice. The best this woman could advise me to do was to go to the Emergency room. I really didn’t want to but didn’t know what else to do. The feeling was becoming intolerable and the woman on the other end of the phone was telling me I really should never have been discharged.
Reluctantly I dialed 911. Not long after, a black man and woman arrived. I was too ill even to get into my wheelchair so yelled for them to come in my back door. They finally heard me and entered the house that way.
I told them to take me to Emory since that was where my doctors worked, and I figured maybe I would give the place another chance even though their clinics had taken way too long to get me routed to the right care. I recounted how things had been moving at a snail’s pace, how surreal things had become on the Patient Portal with several doctors watching intently but none making a move to intervene, and how my GP had seemed at a loss, resorting to prayer now and saying very little.
The female paramedic seemed perplexed. “After that you want to go to Emory?”
“Yes, and don’t divert no matter what. Please hurry. I’m not feeling well at all” I responded.
I’d tried going to another hospital and they’d spat me back to Emory anyway, so I thought maybe it was best that I have them follow through. At least my doctors were there and the ER could let them know where I was. Maybe, I thought, this nightmare was finally coming to an end. Little did I know, things were about to get alot worse.
The male paramedic began proselytizing about Jesus Christ and asking if and how I were “saved”, very inappropriate, but nevertheless I told him that given nothing else was working I’d tried that too and that wasn’t anymore effective than anything else. He went on about how you had to ask forgiveness and pray this way or that way in order to “be healed”. I thought this really must be hell I was in as the female was driving as though it were a Sunday and stopping at each light. It seemed as though I’d stumbled onto an alternate reality, or down some strange rabbit hole. I could hardly believe this was happening. I felt as though I were going to hurl and crap my pants all at the same time as the two paramedics immersed in their own world talked about eating pizza.
After what felt like ages we arrived at Emory’s ER. They took their time getting the gurney out of the back of the truck and wheeled me into the entrance.
After signing some paperwork and having blood drawn through what felt like a dull shovel crammed into my arm (an IV) by a middle-aged black woman with shoulder-length hair began making conversation with me. Other than the painful IV she was pleasant and made some small-talk noticing I had a birthday coming up and asked what I wished for,
“A new body” I half-way joked.
“Be careful what you wish for”, she replied cryptically.
I quietly wondered why everything had to be assumed for the worst rather than for better.
Soon after she left, Dr. L.H. entered the room followed by a group of others. She was young with dark brown hair parted in the middle and an engaging personality. As the others milled around she positioned herself by the foot of my bed on the left side and asked what had been happening that brought me to the hospital. I struggled at first to get out the words but then they just sort of poured out of me, all the symptoms that had developed, how they accelerated recently, and how Emory seemed to be asleep at the wheel as I got more and more disabled until I could hardly care for myself anymore.
“I’m so sorry” she replied. “We’re going to take care of you. I promise. We’re going to make this right. If there’s anything you need, food, water, or anything, just ask.” Her expression looked sincere, so I believed her.
I asked to speak with the social worker but she wouldn’t be in until around 10:00 AM. The woman filling in at the home healthcare agency had told me to have their social worker call them so she could advocate for me. Someone had put my handbag out of reach, I don’t remember when, but I couldn’t get to my laptop or a phone to call anyone, and I was so tired and agonized by the lower GI symptoms I was experiencing it was hard to process all that was going on. I needed to believe things were going to work out finally. They had to. I didn’t know how much longer I could take it.
It was nearly 2:00 PM before I was able to get the social worker and I asked for some food and medication for spasticity. She went to ask on my behalf and after she left it was quite awhile before a young, slim black nurse walked in with a pill in a small cup. I asked if it was Tizanidine and she told me no, (giving me a generic name I did not recognize), then when asked told me that it was some sort of Benzodiazipine. I gave her a strange look and said I didn’t think that was an appropriate drug for my symptoms. She finally admitted it was Valium and I said, “No that that wasn’t going to address spasticity in my colon nor the spasticity I was having in the left instep of my foot.
She told me that I couldn’t get an antispasmodic because those were “neurological medications” and had to be authorized by a neurologist. I wasn’t buying it. Never had I had such an experience in any ER in my life and I had an inkling something strange was going on although I didn’t yet know quite what. I asked to speak with the patient representative and she instead got the social worker again, who while she was understanding and admitted that I wasn’t being treated correctly, seemed to feel that her hands were tied, and eventually trailed off in frustration.
The young nurse returned with the Valium and insisted it would address the spasticity as it had muscle relaxant properties. Too tired to put up much of a fight I took it as it was all that was available at the moment. It didn’t help and I was so miserable with the constant fecal urgency that I felt like crying but my eyes were dry and I couldn’t shed a tear. An almost primal wail came out of me for hours until I fell asleep in utter exhaustion. No food came even after I called the nurse several times. She came in and asked whether the Valium helped and I told her no, that all it had done was put me to sleep but the spasticity remained. I asked again for an antispasmodic. Again she refused. Putting her hand defiantly on one hip she waggled her head and shoulder to try to defend her position, stating that although it might have put me to sleep it was not for sleep and that it does address spasticity. I told her that if that were so that only would it do so indirectly and that there are better medications for that; Tizanidine or Baclofen.
She left the room in a huff rolling her eyes and didn’t return for some time. No food was forthcoming but after ringing the buzzer about 3 times over a period of an hour or so more I finally got some water from another nurse or aid.
Sometime in the late afternoon a female resident, E.G., came to my bedside. She had a very pale face with dark circles and deep set eyes, almost cadaver-like in appearance. At first she seemed cheerful as she told me she was doing her neurology rotation and somehow we got on the subject of my son (I can’t remember how), but I told her he had a D-Net tumor. She didn’t know what that was so I explained it was a benign clump of excess neural tissue that caused daily seizures, and said she would eventually learn that if she was planning on going into neurology. Then she took out her tools and decided she was going to do a neuro exam on me. This was where things started getting a little weird. At the time I really didn’t know what to make of it but she started testing my reflexes in the right arm saying “You know the drill, you know the drill”, in an almost cursory yet condescending way. I remember thinking I wish they’d leave me alone already and practice on somebody else so I could go to sleep.
Then almost immediately after she was through doing that, in came a male attending ER doctor, T.T.J., MD (internal medicine) a stocky man with wavy brown hair tied back in a small poneytail who did his own neuro exam. He was glib and dismissive and seemed quite pleased with himself and couldn’t seem to understand why my not being able to bathe myself and care for myself would be bothersome to me, writing off my concern as “anxiety”, and attributing my chronic long-term constipation to the Tramadol although I’ve had it alot longer than I’ve been on the medication. I told him directly that I wouldn’t be minimizing this if I were him.
After he’d left the room I spoke with the social worker again, telling her I didn’t feel that this guy was being respectful and asked her to speak with my home healthcare agency. Again I asked for something to eat. She said she’d pass it on. I told her that with all that was going on and all I’d been through I didn’t know who to trust anymore. She told me I could trust Dr. H.
Finally Dr. H. came back in and told me I was going to be admitted at least overnight to their bridge unit, and that a female neurologist was going to be assigned to me. As she leaned her elbows on the bars of the gurney she said “We do care about you.” I could believe that she did but the royal “We?”, not so much. I was a long way from feeling reassured. Fighting through the pain and fatigue I was trying to make sense of it all.
After she left the room I waited for the female neurologist she spoke of to arrive but she never did. To this day I do not know why.
When Dr. H. came back she told me there’d been a change of plans and that there was going to be a different neurologist seeing me instead, a male whom she described as “an old traditionalist”. Just then a precarious feeling came over me. That didn’t sound like a good thing. I asked her if he had a problem with a strong woman and she told me no, that she was a strong woman.
Soon a transporter came with a wheelchair to take me to the unit. Once I was assigned to a room a nurse came in and took my vital signs. My blood pressure was somewhat high. I asked her to help me plug in my laptop so that I could notify some people as to what was happening. Once she left I found I was unable to connect to the network.
Around 6 or 7 PM, the neurologist Dr. P.R.M entered my room at Emory Hospital wearing a surgical mask (which I thought was bizarre anyway), accompanied by the same female resident who had seen me earlier.
Instantly I had a visceral feeling of dread. He looked tightly wound, with a mostly bald but oddly muscular head. Clenching his jaw seemed to isolate one muscle in his head at a time tensing and releasing in a strange pattern. He reminded me of a snorting angry bull on a hair trigger pawing at the dirt. He neither smiled nor attempted any niceties in his introduction.
Almost immediately he asked me rhetorically if I would turn off my laptop, and then actually reached over and closed it himself before turning off the overhead light and looking closely into my eyes with his pen light.
Dr. H. came into the room to the right of my bed. Dr. M. asked me some pointed questions about what I understood about why I was there, and asked me my symptoms. I replied that I had been in the process of work-up for a neuromuscular disease, possibly ALS or some sort of movement disorder and told him I had progressive weakness, fasciculations, myoclonus, spasticity, extreme fatigue, and had fallen a number of times back in August, and had been declining more quickly over the past month or so. That day and for the past few weeks I’d been having dysautonomic symptoms; i.e., nausea, faintness, hot and cold temperature dysregulation, gastric upset and constant spasm in my lower GI tract that felt like I had to poop urgently all day long. I explained that I had also had sharp muscle spasms in the instep of my left foot earlier in the day.
When I used the proper names for my symptoms he made a rather pointed comment; “You know a lot of medical terms.” His tone sounded almost accusatory as though that threatened him in some way. I told him that there’s a whole new generation of patients out there who are highly educated and proactive, and that I was raised around science, as my father was a cell biologist, and since I tire easily I’d rather use 1 word to describe 4 or 5 as long as he and I both understand what it means. I explained that I do what I can to conserve my energy.
Then he physically abused me under the guise of a neuro exam (started off pretty rough but on the border) testing my reflexes on some areas of the legs and then on my right arm, but when he got to the left arm he lifted his triangular rubber hammer above his head and taking full swings beat me with all his might several times quickly. When I cringed and yelled “Ouch!” he did not apologize. I have had neuro exams many times before and never in my life had I been hit this hard by any doctor; neurologist or otherwise. There was no clinical reason for that amount of force. It was obvious that he intended to intimidate me and inflict pain in such a way that it would not leave a bruise, in the pretense of doing his job.
He had access to sensitive medical history information in my chart from a recent hospitalization at Piedmont hospital where I had been having tests and being worked up for ALS, admitted he’d read the whole thing, then lied to me that my EMG was completely clean when in fact it wasn’t, there were some findings not yet elucidated, and then proceeded to use other personal history information against me from the other hospital’s record about abuse I suffered as a child in a malicious way. He said “You had a mental health consult there, didn’t you. What did she tell you?” he again poked in a distinctly interrogative tone.
(I had merely spoken with a counselor about grief I was having about the loss of my function in the past few months). His motive was clearly to discredit the neuromuscular symptoms I’ve been having which have progressed to the level that I need help at home with daily living. I was in shock and disbelief that a total stranger would come into my hospital room so hell-bent to attack me this way, especially a doctor who was supposed to be there to help me, and I couldn’t understand why all the vehemence. I told him briefly that the counselor had told me that she didn’t feel I had a psychiatric problem and agreed with me that it was entirely situational, and said that it was understandable that I was overwhelmed considering what was happening to my body. (I understand they cannot bill for grief so have to put something diagnostic down). Dr. M. used this in a malicious way to try to discredit my whole disease process that was currently being worked up, and these were just gross tests, just the beginning of the diagnostic process.
His “professional opinion” (even after I had Babinski sign in both feet taken lying down and also with legs hanging over the side of the bed) was that I had “hysterical conversion disorder” and he told me that he had been “called in” (I don’t know by whom) for his “opinion” and therefore had to chart something about it.
I told him I don’t know how he could jump to such a conclusion and that he better think long and hard about that because this could bias other doctors and result in me not getting the real treatment that could help my disease whatever it is. I said just because that was his opinion didn’t make it true and that a specialist might find the cause of my symptoms and I did not want him to poison the well with this biased opinion.
I told him that there were well documented problems that indicated something neurologically wrong in the CNS such as Biot’s breathing, (similar to Cheynes-Stokes), and that my sleep studies were very abnormal (slow waves while awake, sleep myoclonus, etc.), and that many times I am awakened by fasciculations in my toes, and how on earth could my mind conjure up that when I was not even awake at the onset. He paused for a moment unable to counter that argument.
It was quite clear by then he had his own agenda and did not have my best interest at heart, and what he did violates the Hippocratic Oath on a number of levels. He got defensive when I stood up for myself and told me, “Ms. Carlington, if you don’t want to discuss it there is no point continuing the conversation”. I reminded him once more that I did not want even a hint of this in my records. I told him that if he wanted to put in that he didn’t find anything that was one thing, but to enter such conjecture as he was proposing would be irresponsible. Pretty much everyone in the medical field knows what a stigma such a diagnosis holds and how damaging it can be to one’s credibility. When he shook my hand toward the end of the conversation it was a “dead fish” handshake and there was not an ounce of empathy in his demeanor. I told him “I don’t mean to offend you” but no thanks. This was not helpful.
He said there were no other tests he could think of to do and said that the neuromuscular specialist, Dr. G. didn’t come to the hospital, so I might as well be discharged, and said he’d refer me to him if I wanted. I said why not call in other specialists in the meantime and he asked me what specialists could be called in. I was exhausted and had been in the ER since morning with nothing to eat all day and no medication but a Valium to treat my spasticity so needless to say it didn’t occur to me to ask about a gastroenterology consult, but that shouldn’t have been incumbent upon me to initiate.
Just a few minutes later, he sent his female resident, E.G. into my room, upon which she plopped her butt down squarely on my left foot covered by my blankets which was the one with the most weakness and dysfunction in it. The toes were pointing up, so that could have broken some bones if the muscles hadn’t been as weak as they are at the point between the foot and ankle and it flattened down. Again I yelled “Ouch!” as I do have sensation in it, so of course it hurt. She apologized as though it were an accident. There was a chair on the other side of my bed she could have sat in instead. It was not necessary to sit at the foot of my bed. This is a little known trick to see if you’re “faking it” but is considered highly unethical. This is NOT what residents are supposed to be taught as acceptable practice and places patients at risk of injury.
She made a few statements that I didn’t process because of the state of shock I was in. All I could think to do was to ask her to get Dr. H., but once she’d left the room and Dr. H. came back in I couldn’t bring myself to tell her what the resident had done because even though I felt as though we might even have been friends if we’d met under different circumstances the events of the day had happened on her watch and she hadn’t intervened, so as much as I wanted to I didn’t even know whether I could trust her 100%.
She sat in the chair opposite me, and looking back at her my eyes welled up with tears that wouldn’t fall. I was so tired, so existentially tired. I told her this made me sad, that this experience had seriously damaged my trust in Emory and in doctors, that I thought she was going to make it right, not make it worse. I told her that he was wrong and that I had nothing at all to gain, but everything to lose, that I had lost the one thing I valued most in myself all my life; my physical strength.
She told me that she believed me and saw me as an honest person of integrity, and that I should continue to pursue the source of these symptoms.
I told her that it was so unfair for him to imply that a patient was either faking or nuts just because he didn’t know the answer and I recounted the true story of a woman with chronic Lyme disease whose family wouldn’t believe her and was too poor to get treatment from the right specialists, that she’d begged for someone to help her get the treatment she needed. It never came, and the day after posting a video about her plight she walked in front of a train and committed suicide, and that I’d spoken with one of my doctors about what I wanted to be done if my suffering were to become unbearable with no relief in sight.
She responded that if I ever got to that point to come back to the ER.
“But then I’d have a record”. And anyway, why would I do that if I’d reached such a point that I wanted out? Just to be forced to endure that suffering longer? No, I thought. If I ever get to that point I will make the final decision with dignity. What I’d just endured was not dignity but humiliation and degradation. The whole point of Euthanasia is to end the suffering, not to prolong it.
Yes, that’s true,” she answered, knowing that my having a “mental health” record was what he wanted and I would never give him the satisfaction.
I have an advocacy background (also documented in those records he used against me), so I’m able to recognize the signs of abuse and/or neglect when I encounter them, and what happened that day was highly unethical and out-and-out abusive.
When dinner finally came that night I couldn’t eat.
I had to call out to get the nurse because M had moved the call button to the countertop where I couldn’t reach it. The nurse came in and found it, shaking her head asking how it got over there.
“It was that damned neurologist”, I answered.
As I was given my discharge papers she started to hand me another Valium. I waved it away telling her I tried it earlier in the day and it didn’t help. Then she was going to hand me a prescription and I told her to keep it, as it was pointless. I would just take my Tizanidine when I got home later. I’m not sure why she was so intent on giving it to me; because she believed his take on things, or whether she thought after dealing with him and his abuse I was going to need a tranquilizer. Either way, I felt I was on plenty of medication already and didn’t need one more. Besides, there was no need to add to the stigma he was trying to make stick.
This sadistic man is not only a danger to me physically and to my relationships with other doctors on whom my life may depend, but also a danger to other patients as well.
When I obtained the ER record of his documentation almost a week later it was even worse than he had implied. This went way beyond rudeness or mere difference of opinion, but rose (or should I say sank) to the level of harassment and sabotage. He went way beyond the scope of his specialty and peppered it with psychiatric terms he had no business using that were the most stigmatizing mental health diagnoses he could think of, knowing that Emory doesn’t remove inaccurate, even libelous information but only puts a notation by it stating it’s incorrect. I will be utilizing their form for this, but, as his defamatory narrative will still be visible, and could bias other doctors, in perpetuity, this cannot be allowed to stand.
In addition, he went so far as to question in the report the diagnostic process used by my other doctors who had diagnosed Sleep Myoclonus and Sarcoidosis and he implied it was all fake.
He did nothing that would be beneficial to me as a patient, and his involvement was clearly designed to blacklist me from every doctor but those he had connections with in an attempt to manipulate me into confirming his “assessment”. He had gone too far by beating me under the guise of his “neuro exam” even though he’d admitted that he’d already formed his opinion prior to that based on the records from Piedmont hospital, and realized that I was not the easy victim he thought, so he tried to cover his behind by doing all that libelous charting as he exited.
I have filed the various complaints that I’ve been advised to file given the types of improprieties that happened, one of them a police report with Dekalb County, GA.
As long as he has full privileges at Emory he can tamper with my treatment, he knows where I live, and could possibly also endanger my son and his treatment whom is waiting for surgery for a D-Net tumor. That electronic records system states every appointment within the system I have scheduled, its time, and location, so I am in danger of further harassment and tampering with my treatment by him. He has shown his intentions to try to do that in that ER report.
This rogue neurologist should have his license permanently revoked as he has clearly shown malicious intent toward a patient, (at least towards me, and maybe others), he abused his position and power differential in order to physically assault me in the process of his “work”, and followed that up by essentially attempting to blacklist me with other doctors now and in the future, something that may have life-long ramifications and fundamentally hurt or destroy healthy and beneficial doctor/patient relationships. If he would do this to me then it is reasonable to suspect he would place other patients at great risk in this way.
Who exactly is this dark man, and who sent him?
To what extent did he influence (and possibly orchestrate) the way I was treated in the ER earlier in the day?
As of yet these questions remain unanswered.