STATE OF EMERGENCY: Second opinion averts a death after stomach flu diagnosis

Sent home from the ARH ER with the 'stomach flu,' James Milne told by family doctor he would have died in three days.

A ruptured gall bladder had James Milne close to death when he asked his family doctor for a second opinion. He had been sent home from Abbotsford Regional Hospital's emergency room several days and told he had the 'stomach flu.'

A ruptured gall bladder had James Milne close to death when he asked his family doctor for a second opinion. He had been sent home from Abbotsford Regional Hospital's emergency room several days and told he had the 'stomach flu.'



This is part of a multi-story Special Report on Abbotsford Regional Hospital and its emergency department. For more stories, scroll to the bottom of the story or click here.

On Jan. 20, James Milne went to the Abbotsford emergency room in significant abdominal pain.

A blood test was done, and Milne was told he had the stomach flu and was sent home. The next day, he was throwing up constantly.

Six days later, with his symptoms continuing, he visited his old doctor’s office in White Rock for a scheduled vitamin shot. While there, he asked the nurse if the doctor might be available to see him.

“He took one look at me and put me into hospital,” Milne said. His gallbladder had ruptured and he was told to contact his kids.

Milne, 80, was released on Feb. 1. A tube was placed in his gut to drain his gallbladder. It will be there for the next six months.

“If I hadn’t gone to White Rock to see my doctor, I’d probably be dead now,” he told The News. Still, he said he hasn’t filed a complaint because he believes health officials would dismiss the incident as a one-off.

“‘It’s just an odd incident’: That’s what they’re saying on TV,” he said.

• • • • •

Fraser Health officials, though, say hearing from people who had an adverse experience is vital in order to improve health care.

“This is how you improve,” said Dr. Neil Barclay, an emergency physician and regional medical director for emergency medicine in Fraser Health. “You find out what you’re not doing as well as you should be.”

Barclay said the ARH emergency room doctors “are a responsive group [who] are really passionate about providing great, quality patient care.”

“If you go ask any one of those doctors about why they go to work, it’s because they want to help people.”

Deaths weigh heavily on staff, Barclay said. Physicians see one or two people every day who are classified as being in the highest level of danger, but the death of a young child, like that of three-year-old Nimrat Gill, is “very unusual.”

“When something bad happens … they feel terrible about it,” Barclay said. “And these are things they are really interested in looking at and trying to improve.”

He said he was surprised to see the Abbotsford’s emergency department become the centre of negative attention, given recent improvements in care.

“I’m a little bit shocked Abbotsford has come under the gun so much,” he said. “These are isolated incidents that are obviously tragic.”

Barclay said that any negative interaction with the health-care system should be reported, so physicians and nurses can learn from mistakes or bad interactions. That includes not only medical errors, but if patients feel the demeanor or behaviour of a doctor wasn’t appropriate.

“We’re in the business of customer service, so the way we interact with patients is very important.”

Health care researcher Dr. Eddy Lang echoed those thoughts.

“We don’t blame people,” he said. “We use that to fix what happens in the system.”

He said he hopes people feel like they want to come forward, but said, “I guess it’s possible” that a portion of those with serious concerns feel so mistreated by the system that they don’t want to re-engage.

• • • • •

For some who do complain, the dialogue following a near-miss can ease the anger felt following a stressful event.

The News spoke to one ARH patient who filed a complaint regarding his care in February.

In an email on Saturday, the patient, who doesn’t want his name used, wrote that “it is time to ‘drain the swamp’ ” at the hospital. By Tuesday, though, he had changed his mind after receiving a call from his physician. The doctor had apologized and asked what he could do better in the future.

“To me, that’s what makes a good doctor a great doctor: to say, ‘Hey, I screwed up. How can we make it better?’ “

tolsen@abbynews.com

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

/ Kevin Mills Photo
Hundreds participate in solidarity parade for transgender student who was bullied

Cars, horses and even planes passed by the Mission waterfront to show support

An amethyst rock was stolen from Swinstones Granite Shop’s showroom in Chilliwack on Yale Rd. West, and they are hoping it will be spotted and returned. They discovered their window smashed and the purple rock stolen on the morning of Jan. 17, 2020. Here a portion of it is pictured to the right. (Submitted image)
Amethyst stolen from Chilliwack stone shop’s showroom

Window smashed at business where purple rock has been on display for nearly 16 years

sdf
Another Mission student arrested for assault, in 2nd case of in-school violence this week

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

BCCDC photo.
16 school exposures in Abbotsford schools in 2 weeks

Fraser Health’s list grows by 11 for 2nd week of 2021

Two people on a paddleboard take advantage of a calm Cultus Lake on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Forecast calls for lots of sun in Fraser Valley this coming week

Most of next seven days will be sunny for eastern Fraser Valley, according to Environment Canada

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

Pindie Dhaliwal, one of the organizers for the Surrey Challo protest for Indian farmers. She says organizers were told by Surrey RCMP that the event was not allowed due to COVID-19. Organizers ended up moving the protest to Strawberry Hill at the last minute. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Indian farmers rally moves as organizers say Surrey RCMP told them they couldn’t gather

Protest originally planned in Cloverdale, moved to Strawberry Hill

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Most Read