Family Fears Flu Victim Was Forgotten
by Adam Ghassemi
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Connie Carpenter has always thought of her daughter as a vibrant, beautiful woman and rock of the family.
"My go-to girl. She was my go-to girl," she said Tuesday.
But when the otherwise healthy 41-year-old Michelle Greenfield started getting sick earlier this month her doctor said she had the flu, and warned her to get to an ER if it started getting worse.
On Valentine's Day it did.
"She was up doing a couple of loads of laundry and all of a sudden said I don't feel well," Carpenter said.
Greenfield's symptoms got so bad she started moaning and complaining of chest pains. By that Sunday evening, they had to call 911.
An ambulance from Montgomery County EMS took Greenfield to Gateway Medical Center, but roughly half an hour later when her grandmother made it to the hospital there was no record of Michelle.
"That's when she ran to the waiting room and found my daughter slumped over in a chair," her mother said.
Carpenter says her daughter was left unattended in the ER waiting room.
Tuesday, a Montgomery County spokeswoman told NewsChannel 5 an EMS ambulance took Greenfield to the hospital, and was directed to put her in "triage." She tells us that's when the staff at Gateway Medical Center took over.
It wasn't long after the family found Michelle, and finally got her back to see a doctor, that they got the news.
"It was probably 15 or 20 minutes after the doctor came in and told us that it was not good that he came back and said that she didn't make it," Carpenter said.
Greenfield was a mother of two. Her oldest, Alexander Raygoca, raced to the hospital that night to hear words he hoped he'd never have to again.
"I lost my father four years ago so it's just really, completely tore me apart because that was all I had left," he said.
Now the family is left wondering why she would be left in a waiting room, and never checked-in or given help.
"She didn't need a ride to the hospital, obviously we all have vehicles. We could have taken her to the hospital and maybe that would have made a difference. At least we would have checked her in immediately," Carpenter went on to say.
Hospital officials told NewsChannel 5 triage is where everyone starts, but it's not clear if triage is a different area than the waiting room. They declined to say anything further citing federal privacy laws.
They released the following statement late Tuesday:
Our hospital is committed to providing timely and effective care to patients who come to the emergency department, whether via ambulance or private vehicle. Triage is the first point of assessment to prioritize the most emergent cases.
Out of respect for federal patient privacy laws, we are unable to comment on the care provided to individual patients.
Carpenter said if Michelle's grandmother hadn't gotten there in time, Michelle would have likely died in the waiting room.
The family said they don't want to blame someone, or even file a lawsuit. They just want to find out what happened, and keep it from happening to someone else.
Greenfield did not get a flu shot.