When doctor’s maim and kill our family members, we experience the same loss and devastation as those affected by gun violence, but no one is listening to our call for help, the civil system we petition is not there to assist but to oppress and suppress.
Millions of Americans are affected each year from adverse drug reactions, approximately 100,000 result in deaths. Many are due to preventable errors. While the numbers have steadily increased, very little is done and families are left emotionally and financially traumatized.
Pharmaceutical’s is a billion dollar market. Many Pharmaceutical companies offer doctors lucrative incentives for prescribing their drugs. The downfall is that the American public becomes the guinea pig to drugs the doctors are pushing for the drug companies. What is worse is many doctors have no clue to the contraindications before prescribing these drugs to patients.
My purpose for writing this article and sharing my personal experience in this area is to draw attention to the injustice and hopefully garner enough attention that someone will hear my voice and realize this is an epidemic that needs to be addressed. Not one more child or adult should suffer a life threatening event from a preventative medical error.
While thousands die each year from preventative errors, this number does not include approximately 1.5 million who are injured, many left disabled for life. I imagine many of these people end up on Medicaid which is another cost to taxpayers.
I was catapulted into this arena when a doctor gave my 13-year-old daughter a drug in 2007 that nearly killed her. I realized several challenges in our struggle to bring attention to this doctor’s actions. One, I lived in a community that frowns on Medical Malpractice even if the doctor is negligent. It does not matter that he nearly killed a child, left her severely disabled and destroyed her dreams.
Of the many deaths and injuries reported each year, many do not file claims against the doctor. The pain of reliving the situation is overwhelming but the insensitivity of the system makes it even more devastating.
I realize the apathy in this area makes it hard to fight back when white collar criminals come together against you. The Malpractice Laws in Idaho make it easy for doctors to manipulate the system. As a minority, I found myself in a nightmare, two unethical attorneys, one representing the doctor and the other purportedly representing us, the plaintiffs.
What is even worse, in some places the media, who we look to as a watchdog for the people, will not report on these issues.
October 9, 2007 my 13-year-old daughter was pronounced brain dead due to a neurologist prescribing Zomig for numbing sensations she was having in her limbs, she had a massive stroke. The trauma to her brain could not have been worse if he had shot her in the head with a gun, yet, his offense is considered civil and we have yet to find anyone to help us fight the unjust practices in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
On October 1, 2007 my daughter, Robyn, visited Dr. Erich Garland, a vascular neurologist, in Idaho Falls. She was referred to him for numbness in her limbs. During the office visit, he informed me that she had a rare form of migraine which caused numbness instead of headaches. I questioned him on his diagnosis because I have a sister who had migraines as a child and she never had numbness in her limbs. He was adamant about the diagnosis and would not recommend an MRI. He told me that she may develop headaches later. He prescribed Zomig and Depakote to treat it. Well, after going home that evening and speaking with my ex-husband who is a registered nurse (RN) and my sister who is also an RN and doing some research myself, I decided to order a MRI.
I called his office the next day and was told by one of his staff, because he was not recommending it, it would be ordered as a parent request. The MRI was scheduled for October 9, 2007. On October 4, 2007 Robyn had a massive stroke after taking the Zomig. She took a Zomig tabled at about 12:30 in the afternoon, at about 2:30 or 3:00 she appeared disoriented and had numbness in her limbs and a headache. This did not alarm me because it all seemed to be happening as he said. Robyn’s headache never went away and she never regained the use of her left side.
I took her into Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC) around midnight and it was not until about noon the next day that they realized she had stroked. She was then diagnosed with a rare condition called MoyaMoya. Robyn’s numbness in her limbs was due to Transient Ischemic Attacks. MoyaMoya causes occlusion or constriction of the carotid arteries resulting in TIA’s.
According to FDA contraindications on Zomig, it is only to be prescribed for patients with a clear diagnosis of migraine headaches. Robyn had only seen Dr. Garland once. She was referred for numbness not migraine headaches. She had never had a migraine headache.
The contraindications also warn against giving it to patients who may have underlying cerebrovascular events because of the risk of death. It states, before treating headaches in patients not previously diagnosed with migraines, exclude other potentially serious neurological conditions.
“Zomig is contraindicated in patients with a history of stroke or transient ischemic attack,” according to the list of contraindications. It is also not recommended for children under 18.
On October 5, 2007 Robyn and I were airlifted to Primary Children’s Hospital (PCH) in Salt Lake City, Utah because EIRMC was not equipped to treat her. She was not expected to live through the week. We spent five months at PCH.
Upon discharge from PCH, I was advised to place Robyn in a facility because she was still total care. She regained some use in her right hand but had trouble feeding herself. She had no use of her left hand and could not walk. She also could not attend to any of her personal care. After visiting a facility, I asked the PCH team of therapists to train me. I brought her home, resigned my job and took care of her myself. It was like bringing home a 13-year-old newborn.
Robyn’s stroke forever changed the trajectory of my family’s future. I was no longer able to take my younger son to his basketball and soccer events and I could not afford piano. I also missed my older son’s basketball games and many senior events at school. We had to move from our house into an apartment.
Robyn began walking again in 2009, after a month of intensive therapy at PCH. That same year her father compelled me to file a lawsuit against Garland because Robyn would need the assistance. I was reluctant because I did not want to relive the experience, but he convinced me it was in Robyn’s best interest.
The spring before her stroke Robyn was inducted into the honor society. She was excited about starting her eighth grade year. She was enrolled in honors classes and was about to try out for basketball. She was also on the track team. She had hopes of attending Yale University and one day running in the Olympics. All of her dreams were destroyed when Dr. Garland prescribed a drug that was the wrong drug even for his misdiagnosis of a rare migraine.
After Robyn returned to school, I became Robyn’s scribe for her homework and she had an aide in school to scribe for her there too. In her eleventh grade year, I attended Geometry class with her as her aide because it was difficult for me to understand someone else’s notes and she was not able to recall and explain them. Robyn’s short term memory was also affected by the stroke, it takes her longer to remember information.
In 2009, we retained Benjamin Mason with Nalder Law Firm to handle our interests in the Malpractice Lawsuit. In Idaho before actually filing a malpractice lawsuit with the courts, a prescreening committee has to hear the complaint and make their recommendations.
Mason asked Garland’s attorney if he would agree to forego the hearing, but Garland’s attorney refused because he thought the results might discourage us from going forward with the case. The results of the prescreening committee was that they questioned Dr. Garland’s use of Zomig in a child but found no negligence.
Mason forewarned me that these committees hardly ever rule in the favor of the plaintiff, and not to worry about it. It was just a formality we had to endure. Mason appeared to be very diligent in his efforts. He ran into several challenges early on.
Idaho also has a Community of Care Standard in which a doctor from the community has to come forth and establish the community standard of care at the time of negligence, and the expert witness retained for the case has to become familiar with this standard.
Mason wrote my ex-husband after the deposition with Garland:
“I wanted to write quickly and let you know how the deposition of Dr. Garland went. He was evasive in the areas where I thought he would be, and flat refused to answer some pertinent questions until he was pressed. The upshot is that (a) he is claiming that the local standard for Idaho Falls board-certified neurologists is not the same as the national standard, but is in fact whatever he personally chooses it to be. He said he never consults with other local neurologists and doesn’t know what they do or don’t do. He said that there was nothing unusual about Robyn’s migraines, even though he wrote “unusual migraines” on her report, and “atypical migraine” on the prescription sheet for the MRI. He said that the MRI, even if he’d done it immediately, wouldn’t have revealed the problem, even though he admits that when the ER doctor did the MRI it revealed an abnormality which led to them doing a CT and then a CT Angiogram, which is what revealed the MoyaMoya, which Dr. Garland diagnoses from the imaging. Anyway, the next step is to get the deposition transcript to our expert, Dr. Lombardi, and see if he thinks the statements made by Dr. Garland are enough for Dr. Lombardi to say that he is familiar with the local standard of care. If not, we’ll continue trying to find another local guy.”
Mason could not find one neurologist within Idaho Falls or the surrounding areas to come forward and establish the standard of care. In his words, “they either ignored my calls or took a vow of silence.” Consequently, Dr. Garland’s attorney filed for summary judgment but it was denied March of 2011. This appeared to be a big victory because usually cases are dismissed during summary judgment because of lack of obtaining a local doctor to establish the standard of care.
A couple of months later, we received a letter from G. Lance Nalder that Benjamin Mason had left the firm. We did not get a letter from Mason or a call, just a letter from Nalder stating that we had so many days to move the case or he would continue on with it.
Nalder continued with the case and I met him before my deposition in September of 2011. During the meeting he appeared aloof. He informed me that Robyn had not taken enough Zomig that she needed to have taken more. I told him that she had only taken it three times, same thing I told Benjamin Mason and about an hour or two later she had the stroke, at that time I did not know it was a stroke.
He also told me that I needed to remember what transpired, it had been so long I was anxious and I thought he was going to go over my statements that were on record. He did not. He simply said I hope you remember.
During the deposition, Garland’s attorney showed me registration forms that I filled out. There was one form placed in with the others, but it was not in my handwriting. He and Nalder attempted to get me to identify the writing on the document as mine, when I did not identify the writing they tried to get me to identify circles made as mine. I informed them, “if the writing was not mine, I certainly could not identify circles as mine.”
On April 11, 2012 my ex-husband and I met with Nalder and another attorney he said was assisting him with the case, Breck Barton. I had never heard of Barton until then. Nalder and Barton informed us that the case was no longer viable and they were withdrawing from the case on May 30, 2013. He also told us if we dismissed with prejudice he would waive his fees but if we continued he would come after us for them whether we won or lost the case.
I understood him wanting compensation if we won, but what I did not understand is, if we lost why he would want compensation.
One of his reasons for withdrawing was the document presented during the deposition. He said I filled it out and it weakened my testimony. He then slid the document that I identified in my deposition as someone else’s handwriting before me. When I protested and reached for the document, he snatched it away. He highlighted a circle around headache.
He also said that because I was not sure of when Robyn took the Zomig, it was difficult to establish causation. After he told, in the meeting before the deposition that Robyn had not ingested enough, I decided to ask Robyn if she had taken any besides what I had given her. She thought she had taken four.
At that time, he had me so confused that I did not ask whether the four included the three I gave her. So when the opposing attorney asked me during the deposition, I could not confirm that these were the same that I had given, but I only had samples and there is no way she could have taken anymore because I had taken one to the school and had about four or five when we got to PCH. I think there was a total of nine or ten in the pack.
He then informed us that the expert witness had recanted his statement. In a letter he wrote to me three days later he said the expert had changed his position. I sent a copy of the letter to the expert witness and he confirmed that he did not change his testimony and was still willing to testify if we decided to go forward with the civil suit.
My ex-husband dismissed his interest in the case based on the information from Nalder and Barton. I knew that Nalder and Barton were lying. If a case is not viable there is no reason to falsify medical records and attempt to intimidate the primary witness and defraud the experts testimony.
I called and called and could not find one attorney in Idaho to help us. I even called outside of Idaho. One attorney told me that it was difficult to fight a malpractice case in Idaho Falls because the people think of the doctors as “Gods.”
I also realized that any attorney that I called was going to talk to Nalder and if he was participating in fraudulent activities to defraud this case, more than likely he was given these attorneys the same fraudulent information. Painting a distorted picture of me.
The truth is, I did not initiate the Malpractice Lawsuit and would have dismissed it had they not presented false information with the intent to intimidate me, but Robyn never had migraine headaches and for a doctor to write into her medical records that she had a “history of them and that they sometimes lasted all day,” is bold and dangerous.
Several weeks after we were told the case was no longer viable, I saw a magazine article in which Dr. Garland and EIRMC were being awarded the Joint Commissions Seal of approval in their management of stroke prevention.
According to the article, Dr. Garland and several other entities had been seeking this verification from Joint Commission for months. It was a concerted effort between doctors, emergency room staff, nurses, paramedics and firefighters.
Yes, I wondered and still wonder was that the reason they defrauded Robyn’s case. I doubt they would have awarded the seal if they had known the leader of the pack had an active lawsuit in which he falsified medical records and caused a 13-year-old girl to have a stroke, leaving her disabled for life.
It would also explain Nalder’s irrational behavior the day of the meeting. He wanted us to make a decision right then, I said, “No, we will discuss it and get back to you.”
Consequently, by noon on April 16, 2012 we were to have our decisions to Nalder. What I did not know is that he had to file all expert witness testimonies on this date too. Since I did not dismiss, the testimony he told us did not exist because the expert witness had recanted, was filed on this date.
On May 30, 2012 a hearing was held regarding Nalder’s withdrawal from the case in Bonneville County Court. I attended because he was supposed to prepare an argument as to why he was withdrawing and I wanted to see if he would lie. Instead of him making the argument, the judge asked if I objected and I said, no, because he and Dr. Garland had falsified Robyn’s medical records and tried to intimidate me with them. I also asked if we could discontinue the case to address criminal charges against them.
The judge denied my request and gave me 20 days to find another attorney or represent the case myself and since I did not object Nalder did not have to present an argument.
With all that transpired, my thoughts were, this has got to be criminal. I searched the Idaho criminal codes and found two codes that addressed our situation. Idaho Statutes 18: 2601 and 2602 state that if information is introduced in a court/trial process with the intent or allowing it to be used to deceive or defraud it is a felony.
When I went to the police on last year, I was met with opposition. I first met with Officer Dedee. He pretended he had no clue how to write the report and did not know who it would even go to. When I returned after speaking to someone at the attorney general’s office, he was rude and stated that his superior instructed him not to take the report. I kept calling back until I met with Chief Roo’s and a deputy prosecutor from the Bonneville County prosecutor’s office.
I was told that unless I could establish intent there was no crime committed. Chief Roo’s said that he was sure the doctor was sorry and that falsifying medical records was wrong, but not a crime in Idaho.
I was so frustrated that I did not see that the statute read “with intent or allowing it to be used.”
I also contacted the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, who wrote me and stated that their office was to assist the county prosecutor not take complaints.
Since I could not find anyone to take the case on, I filed Pro Se and began representing Robyn’s interest.
About the end of June 2012 or first of July, I received a notice from Garland’s attorney, he filed a motion to have me removed. Nalder failed to file my interests in the case and since Robyn turned 18 on June 24, I could no longer represent the case because I did not have a claim in it. The latter part of July Robyn filed Pro Se’.
During the time Robyn returned to high school from having the stroke, I searched for a Brain Injury Program that would help with her cognitive losses. I found one in Southern California. She was excited. When her classmates were placing information on their facebook pages about colleges they were going to attend in the fall of 2012, she wrote about Coastline Community College’s Brain Injury Program and stated “they have a place for people like me.”
I had no idea at this point how I was going to get her there. I drove Robyn and her younger brother to Memphis, Tennessee on July 10, 2012. I returned to Idaho with my oldest son to try and figure out how I was going to get to Southern California
He decided not to return to Regis College where he had attended the last two years. He played basketball there and was one of their best players. I told him that once I found a job he could return to school in the fall.
Well, with all my work experience and education, I did not find a job. I now realize my blogs and petitions online may have hindered me.
We were homeless for about a month and a half. My oldest son found a job. I wanted to return to Memphis, but my children encouraged me to stick it out a little longer. The Illumination Foundation in Orange County stepped in and assisted us with our deposit on an apartment and so did my mom. A local church, Lighthouse Community, helped us furnish our apartment and gave us monetary donations.
Even though we moved, I still was assisting Robyn in fighting the case. It became overwhelming given our situation. In October of 2012, we had her interests dismissed without prejudice.
I also filed a complaint against my attorney with the Idaho Bar Association. On March 12, 2013 in a telephonic hearing, which was recorded, Nadler lied to them. He told them he had no knowledge of me having any interest in the case and that was why he did not file my claim. I sent them copies of a deposition where he acknowledged my claim. I also sent them copies of medical records with my hand writing and the document he attempted to intimidate me with.
The Idaho Bar Professional Hearing Committee wrote me back with their opinion “he had properly performed his duties to me and my family.”
I decided to have the document examined in which Nalder said weakened my testimony. A forensic document expert identified the writing as Dr. Garland’s.
In May of 2013, I decided to contact the police in Idaho Falls and file another report. I was again met with opposition. A Lieutenant K. Edwards tried to first convince me that Chief Roo’s decision was right but I told him that the statute had an “or” in it that meant that either intent had to be established or the fact that it was allowed to be used during a proceeding.
I was referred to Captain Cook, who tried to tell me that the statute of limitations ran out because Dr. Garland probably made the changes in 2007. I asked, “How can the statute of limitations on criminal fraud start before it is discovered?”
He also tried to tell me that this was a civil offense. I informed him that it started as a civil case but according to Idaho Statutes it is a felony to allow false information to be used for deceptive purposes in “any” court/trial proceeding including the inquiry process.
Captain Cook also asked me how they were going to determine if Dr. Garland falsified the records. My reply, “If she had a history of migraine headaches, it should show somewhere in her medical files. She has seen a doctor at least once a year since birth. Dr. Garland only saw her once. He had no records from her primary care physician.”
The one document in my handwriting that asks for history of medical condition and asked for me to check the conditions that applied, had migraine headache first on the list and I did not check it. So where did Dr. Garland obtain his information?
I wrote Idaho Falls Mayor, Jared Fuhriman, on April 23, 2013 asking for his assistance in getting the police to take a report. It appears that the city attorney has spoken with everyone I have talked to including those I filed complaints against and he does not feel that it would be proper to prosecute Dr. Garland under Idaho Code 18-2602.
“18-2602. PREPARING FALSE EVIDENCE. Every person guilty of preparing any false or antedated book, paper, record, instrument in writing, or other matter or thing, with intent to produce it, or allow it to be produced, for any fraudulent or deceitful purpose, as genuine or true, upon any trial, proceeding or inquiry whatever, authorized by law, is guilty of felony.”
Actually on last year, I tried to file charges on Dr. Erich Garland, G. Lance Nalder and Breck Barton because they all participated in defrauding Robyn’s case. I attempted to file under both statutes 18: 2601 – 2602. Under 2601 intimidating the witness is addressed.
Idaho Falls City Attorney, Randall Fife, also mentions a police report filed by me. The Police never took a police report. I received an email this morning (June 24, 2013) from Captain Cawley that a report had not been filed because I had not provided the requested information. I sent the information and requests to him on May 20, 2013. So it is interesting that the Idaho Falls City Attorney refers to a report that the Police refused to take from me and that Cawley says does not exist.
Mr. Fife also mentions in his letter that I filed a complaint with the Idaho Board of Medicine, but I had not filed that complaint yet. The Board of Medicine received my letter on June 3, 2013, and Mr. Fife wrote his letter on May 23, 2013. He also states on the second page, “Apparently, the Idaho State Board of Medicine has not discipline Dr. Garland.
Now, all of his information is wrong but even if it were so, that does not make what Dr. Garland did any less a criminal act and a felony, according to Idaho Statutes.
On May 29, I emailed the Idaho Falls City Council members to enlist their assistance on getting a report taken. Councilwoman Sharon Parry, immediately responded copying me on a letter she sent to Chief McBride, who I had also talked to on last year. He is now the new Chief of police.
In addition to council members, I also wrote three representatives of Idaho Falls. Governor Otter and the Idaho Board of Medicine.
Senator Mortimer responded back and asked had I contacted the state licensing bureau? I informed him that I had, but given my recent experience with the Idaho Bar Association, I have very little confidence in any of the organizations supposedly there to handle complaints from citizens.
I also had two reporters to contact me from Idaho Falls. One of the young ladies was very optimistic about doing the story. She felt that it was her duty to expose officials in public service if they were not doing their jobs. I informed her that once they found out she was investigating it they would stop her. Consequently, I have not heard back from her in a while.
Another young lady contacted me from the local news station and then would not return my calls or emails. She even had her boyfriend to contact me on my blog. Her assignment editor contacted me and stated that they did not do stories on Malpractice cases. He told me if the police filed charges they would look into it. I had actually spoken with him on last year, so it was no surprise when she did not return my calls.
I also contacted the ACLU and the NAACP. The ACLU could not help me and suggested I write my state representatives. I have not heard back from the NAACP.
I also contacted Disability Rights of Idaho. There was nothing they could do to assist Robyn but suggested I right the Idaho Medical Board, which I have.
My question, where does the average citizen go when they are attacked and abused by the system that is supposed to protect their constitutional right of equal protection under the law? What happens when the system is corrupt and the boards and committees that are supposedly in place to handle petitions of wrong doing is equally corrupt?
Civil recourse laws in the U.S. should protect the patient and family rights not induce more pain and suffering. When thousands of people are dying and millions are injured in this country due to medical negligence, one would think that this would cause alarm. The apathy in this area is frightening.
I am an African American single mother fighting in an area that is predominantly white and male dominant. Do I believe that has anything to do with what has transpired and why we have not been able to get assistance in Idaho? Yes, I do.
I am not the lone wolf, just the only one howling. Many people in Idaho Falls are afraid of the backlash of reporting the injustices in the system there. I no longer live there.
I recall in 2011, an article in the Post Registered Newspaper, a dentist in Idaho Falls was reported to police and the dental board for abusing patients under anesthesia. A young girl came forward because she did not want this to happen to anyone else. Instead of the dentist being charged with child endangerment or abuse, he was given a plea bargain and charged with assaulting one of his assistance.
Consequently he went back to practicing and those that reported him for abusing children, lost their jobs and could not find work in the dental field. The dentist admitted to having a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde complex. Did this matter to these officials and the other dentists in the area? The dentists in the area never stopped referring patients to him (I have the article).
Those in control in Idaho Falls know how to squash the voice of anyone who dares to expose the injustices in that community and suppress information so that it will not get to the masses.
While I believe gun violence is a necessary evil that needs to be addressed, so does the small number of doctors who maim and kill patients and the systems that cover and allow these injustices to continue. The voices of families and patients need to be heard and something needs to be done, especially in places like Idaho Falls, Idaho where the rule of thumb appears to be discriminate against minorities.
Although there are many good people in Idaho Falls, the toxic leaders who are a part of a brotherhood of corruption there, will never allow the voices of the good people be heard, just like the two reporters who saw the need for this story to be investigated and then were shut down.
I realize that we are all human and subject to error, but when a doctor starts to undermine the patient due to his own negligence, criminal statutes should always apply. The present civil justice system in relation to medical malpractice laws need to be reformed and I think it should be done at the federal level where it can be seen by the masses so that patients’ rights “everywhere” are protected.
I recently started writing as a journalist. I pray that I can be a voice for others who find themselves fighting alone in an unjust system of justice.
By: Veverly Edwards