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.
recently named in the 2009 edition of Best Lawyer's In America, David Mittleman has been representing seriously injured people since 1985. A partner with Church Wyble PC—a division of Grewal Law PLLC—Mr. Mittleman and his partners focus on medical malpractice, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and falls, nursing home injury, pharmacy/pharmacist negligence and disability claims.