(CNN) -- When 2-year-old Malyia Jeffers developed a fever one Sunday afternoon in November, her parents gave her a children's Motrin and kept a cautious eye on her throughout the night. By the following morning, Malyia's fever had jumped to 101 degrees, and other concerning symptoms also started to appear.
"I noticed bruising on her right cheek. She was really weak and could hardly walk," says her father, Ryan. He and his wife, Leah, drove Malyia to the emergency room at Methodist Hospital, five miles from their Sacramento, California, home.
According to Jeffers, a triage nurse briefly examined his daughter and said Malyia most likely had a virus and a rash, and told the family to wait.
They waited -- and Malyia got worse.
After two hours in the ER waiting room, Malyia couldn't walk or even stand up. "I tried to stand her on her feet, but her knees buckled," her father says. Malyia's fever went from 101 to 103 degrees. Then, Jeffers says, the bruising on his daughter's cheek, once the size of a marble, covered most of her face and ears.
Jeffers says he returned to the emergency room nurse, who repeated that Malyia had just a virus and a rash.
"I told him, 'This isn't normal. Look at her ears,' " Jeffers recalls saying to the nurse. "'A rash isn't black and blue!' The nurse kept telling me, 'You'll be next, you'll be next.' But we saw other people going back before us."
Jeffers says he carried Malyia around with him while constantly complaining to the staff while his daughter continued to grow weaker in his arms. The couple discussed switching to another hospital but thought they would be seen soon and they didn't want to lose time.
They continued to wait.
Enough is Enough
After what her father says was nearly five (5) hours of waiting in the emergency department, Malyia's body went limp. For Jeffers, the wait was over. This time he bypassed the desk where the emergency room nurses sat and pushed through the doors behind them.
"I asked to see someone different," Jeffers says. "I showed another nurse the bruising and said, 'Does this seem like a rash to you?' The nurse said, 'No' and put us in a room right away."
Jeffers says blood tests showed Malyia's liver was failing. She was sent via by ambulance to a nearby hospital with a pediatric intensive care unit, which diagnosed a Strep A infection. Also called the "flesh eating bacteria," strep A had sent Malyia into toxic shock. Malyia was transferred once again, this time to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University. By this time, the prognosis was more grim.
"It was hour to hour, sometimes minute to minute. We had a roller-coaster ride trying to keep her alive," says Jeffers, who for two weeks thought his daughter might not pull through. "She deteriorated quickly in front of us," says Dr. Deborah Franzon, the pediatrician who treated Malyia when she arrived at Stanford. "She needed life support and blood pressure medications to help her heart functioning."
While the doctors managed to save Malyia, not enough oxygen was getting to her limbs. Because of that, Dr. Franzon said, three weeks after she arrived at Stanford, surgeons had to amputate her left hand and some of the fingers on right hand. They also had to remove her legs below the knees.
Methodist Hospital said it could not (would not) legally comment on the Jeffers' case.
"At Methodist Hospital, patient care and safety is always our top priority" said communications manager Bryan Gardner. "Patient privacy laws do not allow us to discuss specifics of this case. We were sorry to hear about the eventual outcome for this little girl and our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family."
Emergency room wait times a national problem
According to a 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office, emergency department wait times continue to increase. The report says the average wait time to see a physician is more than double the recommended time in some cases.
Research from Press Ganey Associates, a group that works with health care organizations to improve clinical outcomes, finds that in 2009, patients admitted to hospitals waited on average six hours in emergency rooms. Nearly 400,000 patients waited 24 hours or more.
"It's not unheard of to wait that long in the best hospitals, and even in the best emergency departments," says Dr. Assaad Sayah, chief of emergency medicine for the Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts. "Overcrowding is not just an emergency department problem, but a hospital inpatient problem."
Dr. Sandra Schneider, president of American College of Emergency Physicians, says the backups occur as emergency departments struggle to find beds for admitted patients.
"Think of the emergency room like a restaurant where people come in and go out," she says. "Now imagine a restaurant where the customers come in, but never leave. They come in for breakfast, they stay for lunch and they're there for dinner."
When a patient is admitted to the hospital and needs to remain for additional procedures, they take up available inpatient beds leading to a domino effect, Schneider says.
OK. This story simply shows what a horrendous job that medical providers do business.
When is the last time you sent to a medical provider and were seen on time? 30 mins, 45, mins and 60+ minutes are not at all unusual for wait times to see your doctor—and that is when you have an appointment! Tell me ONE other business that can run a business like this, and stay in business?? Answer: None! The doors would be closed in a matter of weeks!
Emergency rooms are now starting to post their “wait times” on the internet. Yep. If you need to go to an ER, you can Google different hospitals in your area and actually see who has the shortest wait times.
In my opinion, ERs should have a triage nurse/physician checking out people in the waiting rooms. I recall when my daughter was little, she hurt her elbow right before bed one night. At 9 am on a Sunday night, we found ourselves on the way to the hospital. It did not seem busy, but yet, 3.5 hours later we finally got to see a physician. He knew what it was instantly, extended her arm, flexed it toward her bicep and that was it. 30 seconds later, she was fine. So, for an instantaneous diagnosis, a 10 second maneuver and a 30 second recovery, it took 3 hours, 30inutes and 40+ seconds. If they had utilized a triage nurse/physician in the waiting room, just to check on people, we could have saved the 3.5 hours.
Poor little Malyia Jeffers. Her family seems to have a very good medical malpractice case against the hospital. The pertinent issues therein will be whether the delay made a difference. In other words, had they seen and diagnosed her within a reasonable time, would the outcome have been the same? That is up to the experts, and the California jury.
However, did you know that this poor little girl, disabled now for life, and no matter how egregious her lack of care turns out to be, will never recover more than $250,000 for her injuries? That is what “tort reform” is all about. Medical malpractice victims in California are limited to $250K, because the state “wants to discourage frivolous medical malpractice cases”. OK…ummmm, question:
How does placing limits on ALL cases discourage frivolous cases? Answer: Is does not.
In truth, it does not “discourage” anything!!!! It is a horrible law that the medical and insurance lobbyists were able to push through the California legislature to save physicians and their insurers money in every single conceivable case. Does not make sense? Not hardly.
Would you consider Malyia’s case “frivolous”? In California, it does not matter.
Tort reform is bad for innocent victims. Tort reform is good only for insurance companies. When was the last time one of these had your best interest, or fair interest at heart?
We pray for Malyia and her family.