By Toni D., Pinellas County
My ex-husband, Bob, and I were married for 10 years. Together we celebrated the births of our four beautiful children and mourned the heartbreaking loss of one of our sweet babies. We made our family home in Miami and later moved to central Florida. Despite our love for each other and our children, Bob’s addiction made living life together difficult. After our divorce, Bob returned to Miami.
Bob suffered from emotional health issues all his life. I remember that doctors once diagnosed him with bipolar disorder. They started him on medication, but it didn’t work. Then they diagnosed him with manic depression. Again, he started the medication, but it didn’t work either. Nothing seemed to fit. No diagnosis meant no medication or treatment. So, he self-medicated with drugs.
In April 2003 I received a call from Bob’s brother’s ex-wife. She found out that he had been admitted to a hospital in Miami where she worked as a nurse. The kids and I jumped in the car and rushed to Miami to check on him. When we got there, we found Bob in a hospital bed, doubled over in agony. He could no longer speak. The doctor told us that Bob had metastatic brain cancer. It had started in his lungs and spread throughout his body. By the time he reached the hospital, the cancer was pretty progressive. Doctors had him on a calcium drip and saline for fluids. When I asked the doctor why Bob couldn’t speak, he said it was because he had too much calcium in his body, which raised questions for me and my son, who was in pharmacy school at the time. I asked the doctor why Bob had not been given pain medication or food. The doctor said they were waiting for his x-rays to return, which made me think that he’d just arrived at the hospital. But, no. We then learned that he’d been there for fifteen days, suffering. There was truly no excuse for the way the doctors and staff neglected him. It wasn’t until I called the doctor and told him that I was on the other line with the police and newspaper that they ran in and gave him morphine. Two days later Bob was admitted to Hospice and he died.
Bob’s brother was listed as his next of kin. He was an alcoholic and had a history of self-medicating as well. He would come to the hospital to visit Bob, go down to the parking garage to have a drink, and return to sit by his brother’s side. No one was there to oversee Bob’s care or advocate on his behalf. I wasn’t notified because we were divorced, and I was no longer his next of kin. However, no one should need a spokesperson to be shown compassion and mercy. That should be the standard. Bob’s death gave me and our children front row seats to witnessing the injustices in our healthcare system. There is no doubt in my mind that Bob was denied proper medical care because he didn’t have health insurance. He suffered in agony and later died because he was poor.
I will never forget the look on his face when the nurses started the morphine drip. It was like God came down and gave him a special blessing…like he had not, in fact, been forgotten.