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Widow fulfills vow to ensure hospitals improve communication to save lives

2 comments

Vincent Hereford died from sepsis—poisoning from the spread of toxins or bacteria into the body—at 44, leaving behind his wife and two teenage children. Despite her devastating loss, his wife, Michelle Hereford, has dedicated herself to advocating for better communication between hospital staff and the patients they treat to stop needless deaths and spare another family from the pain she has experienced since her husband’s death.

Vincent Hereford had struggled with leukemia for 18 years and developed a bowel problem in January. His oncologist had recently moved to Michigan, so Vincent boarded a plane from Richmond, Virginia to the University of Michigan Medical Center, where he had surgery. As Michelle watched her husband’s fever continuously rise during his recovery time at the U of M hospital, she suspected that he had a perforated bowel and that fecal matter was leaking into the rest of his body. Michelle is no average layperson, either. In fact, she is trained as a clinical nurse and knew that a CT scan could reveal whether her suspicions were true. No matter, the hospital staff refused to hear her and according to Michelle, was largely unresponsive and ultimately declined to order a CT until it was too late. Finally, after seeing a new doctor every day, one decided to perform the CT scan Michelle had been pleading for. The scan did, in fact, reveal that Vincent had a perforated bowel and that toxins were spreading into the rest of his body. He was immediately flown back to the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond where he died nine days later on February 19, 2008.

Michelle filed a complaint with the U of M Medical Center, to which she received what amounted to a scripted letter. Furthermore, the letter neither admitted nor denied that they the hospital staff was at fault for diagnosing Vincent too late. Richard Boothman, the hospital’s chief risk officer, merely stated that the hospital “could have communicated better” but did not say the staff had made a mistake during Vincent’s treatment. However, the hospital has since pledged to communicate better with patients and to have the same doctor attend to the same patients each day, instead of giving the responsibility to a new doctor each day. Hereford has also agreed to work with the hospital and to chronicle her experience for the staff at the U of M hospital.

2 Comments

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  1. SMcMahon says:
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    Seems to me this is a brilliant PR strategy by Boothman and the hospital. They publicize that they apologize so when a patient doesn’t receive an apology they will think they must have been mistaken.

    They Hereford family is owed a real apology, instead Boothman adds insult to injury. It would be interesting to see the number of cases that Boothman and his hospital admit mistakes and make a genuine apology.

    All propaganda, and newspapers by printed these stories that say the hospital admits mistakes are helping to spread it.

  2. southeastern michigan says:
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    It is so unfortunate to hear that an educated medical professional and advocate was unable to effectively work with the medical team at U of M.
    Sometimes, it is difficult to collaboratively work with individuals “who know it all,” However,
    it is unjust when it results in a significant preventable loss. It is unspeakable and the Medical professionals at the U should be held highly accountable.
    Signed,
    Too little Too Late.