As told by Richie's Mother, Penny
This is a picture of Richie’s last birthday. He told us it was his Golden Birthday because he turned 27 on the 27th (of January). He said his life would have good things ahead.
Richie was well educated, graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington with a degree in English and Journalism. He was funny, with a quick wit and always a smile. He was a loyal and loved friend to all who knew him. His passions were writing and music.
Richie also had an addiction to heroin which we learned of in 2005. He continued to work two jobs and maintained a loving and close relationship with our family. We had our boundaries and he respected them. We viewed Richie’s addiction as an illness, not a moral issue.
Monday July 19, 2010 I called Richie to meet for lunch. He said he wasn’t feeling well and was having a hard time breathing. I immediately went to see him. He was weak, pale, and cradling his left arm. His arm was swollen from his shoulder and chest to his hand. When I asked what happened, he said he had relapsed.
My decision to take him to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas was my belief that they could take care of his drug issues and care for the possibility of an infection in his arm, along with generalized pain and discomfort. Richie was admitted to ED at 17:40 with a diagnosis of cellulitis left upper arm; history of IV drug abuse.
Throughout the night, I made several requests to his nurse for pain meds and meds for withdrawal. This is what he rec’d:
21:50 – morphine 4 mg IV
23:49 – morphine 4 mg IV
03:23 – Valium 5mg po
Richie never received relief from any of his symptoms. He was repeatedly short of breath and fainted at one point. I was at his bedside all night and his nurse never even observed his arm. Nurses showed little interest and never documented these events.
07:20 July 20th – Richie was finally given a bed on the surgical unit.
12:15 – Richie began to show a rapid decline. He fainted in the hallway and then returned to bed.
13:40 – Finally sleeping, Richie then vomited a large amount of coffee ground material. As I assisted Richie to the restroom to help him clean up, he had a seizure. After my call for help, it took three of us to get him back to bed. He was extremely short of breath, his body cold. He said he couldn’t breathe. I told the nurse he was septic and going into shock. Dynamap was unable to read a b/p or oxygen saturation. The charge nurse called Richie’s doctor who was in the OR. The doctor told the nurse to call the RAT Team (rapid response) or call the MD who was covering. She chose to call the covering MD. This is when the most precious moments were lost to save my son.
14:20 – MD came to bedside. As she left the room to write orders, Richie had another seizure with coffee grounds from his nose and mouth. Code Blue was called.
15:45 – Richie transferred unresponsive and on a vent to SICU. Accepting MD note: Pt coded on floor; probable aspiration thought to be related to narcotic withdrawal.
22:59 – Life support was removed and my son was gone.
I have been a registered nurse for 40 years. I have always loved my profession and the patients I cared for. I would treat my patients as I would want my own family treated.
As I left the hospital in the early morning hours of July 21, 2010, I swore I would do anything to be sure no one else ever suffered like this again.