A grieving widow is calling for an overhaul of the public healthcare system after her husband of 26 years died from a heart attack late last year.
The woman said she took her husband to the Arima General Hospital after he suddenly fell ill, only to have hospital staff scold her on her parking instead of attending to her husband, who was having a heart attack.
In an interview with Guardian Media at her home in East Trinidad, the woman, who asked not to be identified, said she had no idea her otherwise healthy husband was suffering from a heart attack.
“We were just sitting here, watching tv around 7 o’clock when he got up, went into the bedroom and came back and said ‘You have to take me to the hospital’,” she recalled.
She said he was sweating excessively and by the time she got him into their vehicle, he started vomiting.
“I took the bus route, just so I could get him to the hospital in the shortest possible time, it took me about eight minutes to get there and he was gasping for breath the entire time.”
In her panic, she drove into the entrance reserved for emergency vehicles at the hospital. She said she got out of the car and started pleading with nurses and orderlies who were present to assist her husband.
But she said they seemed more concerned by her vehicle at the emergency entrance than her dying husband.
“They told me I couldn’t park there, I needed to exit the compound and come back in the correct entrance,” she said, stifling her tears to get her words out. “When I did that and came out again, this time opening his door but they said I needed to drive up some more before they could do anything. I got back in the car again, drove up and this time they started to look a little interested.”
However, she said the staff hung back when they realised her husband had vomit on his clothing. She said she pulled off his pants and t-shirt and even then, had to assist the orderlies to bodily lift her husband out of the vehicle.
The staff then instructed her to move her vehicle from the emergency bay while her husband was taken inside. She said after she parked and got back into the hospital, she faced further insensitivity from both a nurse and a doctor.
“When I ran back in, a nurse shouted at me ‘That is your husband?’.”
When I told her yes, she didn’t say anything else, so I started to panic more. I was so hopeful that they could have saved him and after waiting a good while, a doctor came out and asked if I was his wife. He told me “Get off that phone, I have to talk to you.”
She said their insensitivity made the loss of her husband of 26 years that much harder to bear.
“I know they probably see this all the time but a little bit of sensitivity could go a long way. I was hurt and hurting so much, I felt like I had lost everything in my life and they were just so uncaring and harsh at that moment.”
Her husband was cremated three weeks after his death and the woman said she is still unable to speak of him without becoming emotional.
“We were so close, we hardly ever fought or argued and even if we did, we moved on quickly. We went about life always together. He was a wonderful father and a wonderful husband. He was a truly good person and now instead of having him here with me, I had to plan his funeral,” she said.
She sent out an appeal to Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh to ensure that medical staff is properly trained and the proper life-saving equipment is installed at hospitals.
“They need better training, they seemed very unprepared for an emergency situation. They did CPR and gave him injections to try to revive him but that didn’t work. Maybe if they had a cath lab, they could have saved him.”
According to the American Heart Association, a cardiac cath provides information on how well your heart works, identifies problems and allows for procedures to open blocked arteries.
Since September 2020 Guardian Media has been sending questions to the Health Ministry asking whether it has received a proposal from the Caribbean Cardiac Society to create a National Primary Angioplasty Network. This network could save many lives as heart attacks account for 25 per cent of T&T’s annual death rate.
The association in their proposal said there is only one functioning cath lab in the country’s public health care system, located at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex.
Guardian Media re-sent the questions again earlier this week but received no response.