A Milwaukee woman waited nearly three hours at an emergency room with chest pains before leaving to seek quicker care, only to die hours later.
Now the family of Tashonna Ward is demanding answers from Froedtert Hospital, where their loved one was stuck waiting to be seen by a doctor.
Ward, a 25-year-old day care worker, checked into the medical center in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, on Jan. 2 complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Family members said Ward was kept in the waiting area and wasn’t under monitoring when she chose to seek care elsewhere.
“How can you triage someone with shortness of breath and chest pain and stick them in the lobby?” Ward’s cousin, Andrea Ward told the newspaper, adding: “Froedtert needs to change their policy.”
A spokesperson for the hospital released a statement on the matter, saying: “The family is in our thoughts and has our deepest sympathies. We cannot comment further at this time.”
Ward’s official cause of death is still pending.
According to a Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office report, the young woman was driven to Froedtert by her sister and checked in at 4:58 p.m. after experiencing chest pains and trouble breathing at work earlier that afternoon.
Hospital staff checked Ward’s heartbeat with an electrocardiogram, which came back normal, and a chest X-ray revealed she had an enlarged heart — a condition Ward was well aware of. In March, doctors told her she had developed an enlarged heart during pregnancy; Ward would lose her baby after the umbilical cord became wrapped around the child’s neck.
What’s unclear is whether she retained the condition — which can be permanent or only temporary — since her pregnancy, or had recently experienced a flare-up, the Journal Sentinel notes.
Ward posted on social media throughout her hospital visit and complained about the long wait times, saying she was told it could be anywhere from two to six hours before she was seen by a doctor.
“Freodert so packed it don’t make no sense,” she wrote on Facebook at 7:36 p.m. “Damn near woulda been better off going to [St. Joseph Hospital].”
“Idk what they can do about the emergency system at freodert, but they damn sure need to do something,” she wrote again at 8:35 p.m. “I’ve been here since 4:30 something for shortness of breath, and chest pains … Like that is really f—–n ridiculous.”
The medical examiner’s report doesn’t state if Ward was given a wait time but indicates she left the hospital around 7:30 p.m. after being stuck in the waiting room for 2.5 hours. By then she’d decided to seek treatment at an urgent care facility.
Her sister picked her up and they headed to their mother’s house to grab Ward’s insurance card. She would collapse outside urgent care just before 8:40 p.m., and was rushed back to the hospital in an ambulance.
Andrea Ward recalled the moment she learned the heartbreaking news about her cousin from Tashonna’s mother, Yolanda Ward.
“She called me and said, ‘My baby stopped breathing,’” she recalled. “And I zoomed over. She was swearing [and] she said she was just at the freaking hospital and they kept her waiting.”
The ambulance arrived just after 9 p.m., according to the report. By then, Ward was unresponsive and her condition continued to worsen. She was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly after afterward.
A grieving Andrea Ward decried the loss of her cousin as a “miscarriage of our healthcare system here in Wisconsin” and said the family is struggling to come to terms with all that’s happened.
“I would like people to know the family is devastated and heartbroken,” she said in a statement provided to Atlanta Black Star. “It is inexcusable and our family would like answers and [for] the people responsible to be fired immediately. It’s sad we had to lose a family member for people to see our health care system sucks.”
The shocking turn of events sparked a flurry of reactions online, with many offering their condolences or sharing their own stories of being held up in the emergency room.
“This story angered me to the core when I read it,” one Facebook user wrote. “This woman deserves to be taken seriously, and given prompt, proper care especially for a woman with a heart condition. The hospital needs to be held accountable for this woman’s death.”
“I spent all night sitting and waiting in an emergency room,” another commented. “Had to leave the next morning to go to work never saw a doctor yet received a very large bill in the mail.”
Andrea Ward said her cousin’s mother is absolutely “devastated” and so “overwhelmed” that she can’t even speak about the tragedy. Moreover, she said she believes both age and race were factors in Froedtert medical staff “not taking Tashonna’s [symptoms] seriously.”
“Had someone 40 or 50 years old come in with the same symptoms, they would’ve been seen right away,” Andrea Ward told ABS. “The person who triaged her should be fired. They dropped the ball.”
The family hasn’t decided if they’ll seek legal action, but Ward said she’s recommending Tashonna’s mother hire a lawyer to sue the hospital for compensation.
Ward’s family, who said they still haven’t received an apology, is set to meet with hospital representatives sometime next week. Funeral arrangements have been scheduled for Wednesday.
A GoFundMe page has been launched to help with funeral costs and other expenses, and has already collected nearly $1,500 in donations.