The mother of a young Comox Valley man said there’s “no excuse” for how many times her son was turned away from St. Joseph’s Hospital emergency department before he got help.
Isaac LeBlanc, 26, is in a Victoria hospital bed paralyzed from the neck down. He has full brain function but is unable to speak. His illness is still undiagnosed, according to his mother Wendy Leblanc, but it could be a rare neurological disease or some form of multiple sclerosis.
Wendy said there were too many emergency department visits before he was admitted.
“There’s just no excuse that it took as long as it did,” said Wendy. “He said he felt like he was just – not treated like somebody who was ill.”
In November, Isaac started feeling severe pain in his neck, according to Wendy. He went to the emergency department and was told to go home and come back if it got worse.
A few days later he went back because his left side was numb and he was losing use of his limbs on that side. Again he was told the same thing, according to Wendy.
He then went back about a week later with loss of balance added to his list of symptoms. Again he was told to go home.
“He said it was the most frustrating experience of his life, he goes, ‘Mom, I’m falling apart and nobody wants to help me,’ ” explained Wendy.
About three weeks after his initial visit, Isaac woke up and couldn’t walk. He called Wendy to take him to the emergency room.
“The fourth time I was like, ‘No, he’s not going anywhere’ … and the ball started rolling at that point,” said Wendy. “But three times prior to that, being sent home, is just ridiculous.”
St. Joseph’s president and CEO Jane Murphy said she can’t comment on the specifics of this case because of policy, but said sometimes diagnostics don’t show that anything is wrong.
“That can happen, and we’ve had patients re-present to the emergency department for a variety of different things, that on a subsequent visit the diagnostic workup will indeed help the clinician, or tell them what might be going on,” said Murphy.
“Sometimes diagnostic workup is not indicative of a serious situation because it hasn’t evolved to that point yet, and it’s on followup that perhaps something’s identified.”
Wendy said Isaac told her he “felt like he was treated like a drug addict,” and that hospital staff tested him for drugs on at least one visit to the emergency department.
She also said a doctor in Vancouver agreed there was no excuse for Isaac being sent home from the emergency room three times.
“‘When a grown man that’s healthy comes in with severe neck pain like that,’ he (a Vancouver doctor) goes, ‘first thing you look at is the neurology side of it,'” said Wendy.
While Murphy couldn’t comment on what testing was done in this case, she said when someone enters the emergency department they are assessed by a registered nurse, then assessed by a physician who determines appropriate diagnostic testing.
When a person returns with similar symptoms, doctors have access to past records and tests and take that information into consideration, according to Murphy.
“Our emergency personnel are very committed to what they do, and take every case that enters the emergency department seriously and do a thorough assessment and diagnostic work-up,” said Murphy.
Isaac was sent to a Victoria hospital in early December, then went to Vancouver, and is now back in Victoria.
He has had chemotherapy, a plasma flush and a tracheotomy, among other things, according to Wendy. More chemotherapy is a possibility.
Although Isaac can’t speak, he can communicate by blinking his eyes, and Wendy said visitors are more than welcome.
“When he has visitors it just sort of brings him right back up again,” said Wendy. “They can get him to smile.”