20 years of pain

Woman suffering with multiple ailments pleads for help

Online reporter

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

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The past two decades have been a medical nightmare for Lacia Manhertz-Malcolm.

The 42-year-old said she has been in and out of hospitals and doctors' offices since 1995 when she first complained of intense abdominal pains following the birth of her fourth child.

Today, she is afflicted with multiple ailments which she said were caused through negligence by doctors at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) and is now appealing to the public for help to meet her medical bills.

Manhertz-Malcolm told the Jamaica Observer that when she first went to the hospital the doctors did both an X-ray and an ultrasound but could not say what was causing her pain.

“They sent me home, even though I was still in pain. I tried telling the doctors that I don't think that I'm fit to go home because my abdomen still ached,” she related.

“They gave me some white substance, saying [I had] gastroenteritis, and while I was crying for the pain one of the doctors told me to shut up because I was just putting on a show,” she added

Manhertz-Malcolm said a few weeks later she was rushed back to UHWI with the same abdominal pain and after doing a second ultrasound doctors were still adamant that there was nothing in her stomach.

“However, I was taken to the theatre where they did surgery on my abdomen. They told me that they had found a gallstone in my gallbladder. They also told me that during the surgery my pancreas had been damaged and no insulin would be produced, so I would be diabetic,” she said, adding that the doctors removed the damaged pancreas.

Manhertz-Malcolm said she asked for the stones but was told they they had been sent to a lab for testing. She said to date she still has not seen them.

A year later, in 1996, Manhertz was back in hospital with the same abdominal pain. This time, she said, the doctors said the problem was with her appendix and they performed another operation to correct that.

“After that I didn't feel any more abdominal pain,” the woman said.

But now, Manhertz said, she is diabetic with eyesight and heart problems, plus there is water collecting around her lungs.

“At that time I was only 19 years old, I did not understand what was happening, but I think I was rushed into the first surgery too quickly,” the mother of five added.

The Observer spoke with Manhertz-Malcolm's mother, Marcia Williams, who has been helping to take care of her over the years.

Williams echoed her daughter's plea for help because of the mounting medical bills.

“We really need the help, because none of her children (ages 27, 26, 24, 23 and 15) are gainfully employed and I can hardly do anything because I'm retired,” said Williams who was assistant librarian at Mavis Bank High School.

When asked if the family sought legal advice in relation to her daughter's complaints about negligence, Williams replied, “I wasn't really aware that I could seek legal advice when everything happened, and I don't have any money to do that now because I don't even start getting pension or anything.”

The Observer spoke with one of Manhertz-Malcolm's doctors, who has been treating her since 2016. The doctor, who asked not to be named, confirmed that she has several diabetes-related ailments, including kidney failure, which requires her to do dialysis twice per week at a cost of $24,000 to $25,000 each week.

“Water has also collected around her lungs because her kidney is unable to excrete water, and so it has collected in her face, in her legs and stomach,” the doctor explained.

She added that Manhertz-Malcolm is also in need of laser eye surgery because her eyesight has been damaged due to diabetes.

Manhertz-Malcolm said that in May 2015 she was advised by doctors that she needed to do a biopsy because of her failing kidneys.

However, she said that after scheduling the procedure she became ill and advised her daughter to reschedule her appointment at UHWI where she had done her first surgery in 1995.

Manhertz-Malcolm said that when her daughter got to the hospital she was told that they could not find her mother's records so they refunded her money.

“I don't know how that could be because I was admitted there for about three weeks that same year,” she said.

When contacted, the hospital recommended that Manhertz-Malcolm write a letter to the chief executive officer about the matter.

Since 2017, Manhertz-Malcolm has been spending six hours on dialysis twice per week and is taking a total of 21 different medications.

“Now I'm on dialysis and I feel like giving up because of how expensive that treatment is and how hard it will be for my family,” said the distressed mother.

She is currently staying with her 23-year-old daughter, Tashonie Edwards, who is studying beauty therapy in a HEART Trust/NTA programme.

“It's very hard on me because I have to charter a taxi that costs $4,800 per week to take her to and from the hospital for dialysis,” Edwards said, adding that she is the one sending her 15-year-old sibling to school.

Manhertz told the Observer that when she wasn't so ill she worked in a wholesale, but had to stop because of her frequent trips to the doctor.

“The lady that owned the wholesale said she wanted to help me but couldn't because I was absent so much, so she had to let me go.”

“It is really rough now, and that is why I'm asking for help,” she added.

Anyone who wishes to help Lacia Manhertz-Malcolm may make a deposit to account number 10506338 at the Jamaica National Bank, Papine branch.

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