When Allison Holthoff arrived at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre in Amherst on New Year's Eve, she had already spent months in unbearable pain and discomfort. The 37-year-old had been suffering from excruciating stomach problems ever since a fall from her horse back in September.
On December 31, the pain had worsened to an intolerable level. Gunther, Holthoff's husband, recalled his wife waking up tormented by the pain that morning. As the day went on, her condition steadily deteriorated until he had no other option but to take her to the ER.
Unfortunately, instead of being provided with compassionate attention right away as one might expect, Holthoff was made to wait seven long hours before finally seeing a doctor.
The couple arrived shortly after 11 a.m. Gunther had to carry his wife on his back because she couldn’t walk. After placing his sick wife in a wheelchair, he raced her into the emergency room. Gunther said his wife could barely sit upright because the pain was so bad.
He clearly expressed his wife’s condition to the emergency room staff. Apparently, they didn’t. Nurses in the emergency room told the couple to wait, and wait they did. Hours passed. Holthoff’s condition worsened dramatically.
At one point, her husband said his wife moaned that she felt like she was dying. “I think I’m dying.” “Don’t let me die here,” the sick woman pleaded. Her pleas went unheard. Over four hours later, the couple was finally escorted to an exam room.
All the staff did was take blood samples. No diagnosis was even attempted. Gunther continued to plead with the nurses. He insisted that Allison was getting progressively worse. All that a nurse did was ask, “Is she always like this?” How bizarre!
As his wife began to lose consciousness, the nurse had the audacity to ask if the married mother was on drugs. Gunther said his wife continued to tell the hospital staff that she felt like she was dying. Seven hours after arriving at the ER, Allison started screaming in pain.
She was in anguish. Allison Holthoff was dying. Allison gradually fell into distress. It was at this point that the hospital staff finally started to react. When Allison’s eyes rolled back into their sockets again, “code blue” was called.
The staff alerted medics that a patient was in cardiac arrest. It was too late. At 11:30 p.m., Allison Holthoff was pronounced dead. This was nearly 12 hours after she was rushed into an emergency room.
Once Allison finally got the doctors’ attention, they insisted that even surgery couldn’t have saved her. Gunther Holthoff is both heartbroken and confused. “I’m just lost,” he said. The now single father still has no idea of what caused his wife’s death.
In some respects, a failed medical system may be the true reason. According to the Department of Health and Wellness, the Nova Scotia Health Authority has launched an investigation to determine what happened to Allison.
Gunther insists that the system failed his family. “We need change; the system is obviously broken.” “If it’s not broken yet, it’s not too far off,” he said. “Something needs to improve.” “I don’t want anybody else to go through this.” Sadly, any changes will be another death too late.