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January 27, 2015

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Do No Harm: Hospital Care in Las Vegas:

Leaving hospital saved her life

Kathy Shafer knew she was bleeding internally after an operation at Sunrise Hospital Medical Center, but she says no one would listen to her.

Checking herself out of the hospital this spring against doctors’ advice may have saved her life.

Shafer, a 59-year-old operating room nurse from Charles City, Iowa, had come to Las Vegas to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and broke her left hip while dancing in a Fremont Street bar. She was taken to Sunrise, where Dr. Matthew Ragsdell replaced the hip, medical records show.

Ragsdell did not return the Sun’s phone call seeking comment for this story.

Within days of the surgery her leg swelled to twice its normal size and became rock hard.

“I knew something wasn’t right,” said Shafer, who has been a nurse for 28 years and seen many hip replacement surgeries.

Then Shafer noted that her level of hemoglobin — a protein that carries blood throughout the body — was dropping precipitously, a possible sign of internal bleeding.

“My leg is filling up with blood,” Shafer told hospital employees.

“No, it’s not,” she says they replied. “Your leg is just swelling.”

Shafer, who received two blood transfusions, spent a week trying to convince doctors and nurses that something was wrong.

“My husband kept saying: ‘Look, you’re going to die. If we don’t get you out of there, they’re going to kill you,’ ” Shafer recalled.

So the decision was made to leave the hospital and get care back home.

She asked for pain medication for the trip but doctors refused.

“She was not given any prescriptions since I did not feel that it was a good choice,” Dr. Samuel Wise noted in her medical records. “I would take no responsibility for her future medical issues or her resistance to the recommendation that she stay for one more week.”

Back home, a surgeon repaired a split in the thigh muscle, which had been allowing blood to pool in her leg, medical records show.

Other aspects of Sunrise’s care troubled Shafer. She says she was “totally ignored.”

It took her more than 12 hours to get a pillow. Her friends had to empty her catheter bag. And no one emptied her bedside commode during her one-week stay.

She was not given a bath for five days, but when she told the nurse she would like one the nurse pointed to the shower and said: “If you can get in there, go ahead.” The nurse did not help, she said.

Shafer also said hospital employees refused to let her take a wheelchair from her fifth-floor room down to the cab, which would take her to the airport. She and her husband used the wheelchair anyway, because there was no other way for them to leave, she said.

“It was one disastrous thing after another,” Shafer said.

Shafer said she complained to the Nevada State Osteopathic Board, which licenses Ragsdell.

Shafer said she was told by a board official that the reason she was bleeding internally was because she ceased treatment when she checked herself out of the hospital against medical advice.

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  1. The apparent attitudes at Sunrise Hospital are those of indifference, apathy and carelessness that borders on criminal. All things considered, if Kathy Shafer had not been a nurse, she would probably be dead.

    Health care has now become insurance management instead of patient management. This has demoralized health care providers to the point that they just don't care anymore.

    In addition, staffing reductions, replacement of qualified and experienced employees with minimally paid inexperienced new hires is going to fuel the fires of incompetence.

    Unless and until we find a way rein in the insurance companies, Kathy Shafer's experience will become the norm instead of the exception.

  2. As a human being and American this type of treatment should not be tolerated in Vegas or anywhere in this country. As mentioned above its all about the money, never the patient or medical situation. Our country in so many ways is deteriorating faster that we can comprehend, and its complete downfall will be framed by the dollar and the greed associated with it.

    Government can't and won't step in to solve these things because they too are bought and paid for, powered by greed, bribes and foreign influence.

    Folks, we have major problems now and ahead, and its all because of the greed, money, and power,...medically, politically, and corporately. Something MUST be done.

  3. Sunrise is awful. I laid on the floor of their emergency room with a fractured spine for hours. They eventually put me on a stretcher then left me in the hallway for over 12 more hours. None of the doctors, nurses, assistants, administrators or anyone else walking by would even make eye contact with me as I begged for something for pain or even just a glass of water. Approximately 15 hours after arriving I was examined and when a CT scan revealed the seriousness of my injuries the only response from hospital workers was "Wow, if we thought your injuries were so severe we would have treated you way earlier." And NEVER tell the E.R. staff you don't have insurance. Besides being the last to be seen, you will also not be able to get follow-up care unless you pay the Doctor cash at their office BEFORE they will even see you for your appointment. If you are un-lucky enough to go to the ER during one shift but not be seen by a doctor until after shift change, the Doctors will argue over who is legally responsible for your follow up care if you don't have insurance, leaving the patient with no where to turn. When my spine was fractured I also had several other injuries that left me in a wheelchair upon release from the hospital. The Doctor on duty who would have been responsible for my follow up care was Doctor James Forage. He made me wait over a month for a follow up appointment and then pay him $200 in the waiting room before he would even see me. Then all he did was recommend MRI's and finally give me a prescription for pain medication, a month after sustaining multiple fractures, including the spine. To show the totality of exactly how unethical Dr. Forage and his practice is, Dr. Forage's partner, Derek Duke, is now an "expert witness" for the defendants in the civil court action that resulted from the numerous injuries I sustained that night. To top it all off, even though it was the defense attorneys and insurance company from the Defendants that hired Dr. Duke, he continually sends me a $1000 bill for the 10 minute interview he conducted with me that was called an "examination" so Dr. Duke can testify as an expert witness for the defendants. His testimony will be nothing more than calling me a liar and berating the care and the great Doctors at Nevada Spine Clinic that have treated me for the past 3 years. Thanks to the Nevada Spine Clinic I am no longer in a wheel chair, and although I doubt I will ever be completely pain free, I can at least live with it now with minimal use of prescription drugs. Yet still Dr. Duke will have nothing but negative things to say about the professional care I received at NSC. Why would a Dr. do this? Because the insurance company is paying him at least $1000 for his 10 minutes interview and who knows how much they will pay him to testify during a deposition and then again on the stand as a so-called "expert."

  4. I believe this Nurse. By leaving she saved her life. And this is America. The People Of Nevada should be ashamed of themselves and start voting in change. Do not let this series end, untill laws are passed such as in California with Nurse staffing ratios, and Legislature governing stricter oversight of Hospitals and Nursing Homes.

  5. Look who was on GOVO Gibbon's medical board? contributor Dr. Desai

    We need medical people that are not tainted by pay as you go politics