A hospital is supposed to be a place where anyone can feel safe and feel as though they will be taken care of. Unfortunately for Anna Brown, this was not the case. Anna went into the hospital seeking treatment for a sprained ankle. Anna also happened to be poor, homeless, and African American. Anna had been to two other hospitals the week in September that she died. But like millions of poor people across the country, she was unable to get adequate care. Brown, of course, was on Medicaid, making it so she would get the minimum level of care. She went to Saint Mary’s Hospital of Saint Louis hoping they would help her as she was in excruciating pain, again from a sprained ankle. Saint Mary’s released her but she refused to leave stating that her ankle hurt so bad she couldn’t stand.
The hospital, however, was not going to help Anna Brown anymore. They instead called the police who arrested Anna for trespassing and wheeled her to the squad car in handcuffs. The doctor had said she was healthy enough for jail. Once she arrived at the jail, she told the police that she could not get out of the car as her ankles were in too much pain. Rather than get a wheelchair, the officers dragged her into the police station. It was then that the officers left her alone lying on the cold concrete floor. Not more than fifteen minutes later, she was found dead on the concrete floor. The officers had originally suspected she was using drugs, but the autopsy report showed she was not. But what the autopsy report showed as her cause of death is enough to sicken even the strongest of stomachs. It turns out Brown was right, that there was something more than a sprained ankle. Her autopsy showed her cause of death was blood clots that started in her leg then moved to her lung.
Here’s the video:
To some this may seem like a simple mistake. Neither the officers nor the police knew she had a blood clot in her leg. But this speaks to a larger problem and it is quite likely that both race, and her status as a homeless person had much more to do with it then an innocent error. I have a life threatening heart condition called Long QT Syndrome 7 or Andersen Tawill Syndrome. I have survived multiple cardiac arrests and many ventricular arrhythmias. But I can feel for Anna as I was once homeless as well. It was during this time that my heart condition had started. My condition, in fact, has only had about 100 cases reported worldwide since 1973. I went from clinic to clinic, doctor to doctor, just trying to find out what was wrong. They never did. Five cardiac arrests later I was able to go to the Mayo Clinic, where I should have gone to begin with but couldn’t afford. In those two years I was told that yes, I had a life threatening heart abnormality. But I was also told it was due to abusing drugs. The only problem was that I was not abusing drugs, and the doctors refused to test for it. It was an easy answer, and they knew the care I would have needed would have been too costly. But after two years of being poor and literally dying at random, I finally figured out what was wrong. But only because I got better (and private) insurance.
I was truly lucky. Each time I had about a five percent chance of survival. But I was lucky enough to be able to come back to life, lucky enough to conveniently have an AED present each time and someone who knew CPR. Anna was not so lucky. Like me, she was dismissed several times, most likely due to lack of insurance. When doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong through cheap means and you have public or no insurance, they usually deem you mentally unstable or on drugs, without proof or evidence. This is likely what happened with Anna Brown. But she did not have to die. Had the hospital or the police actually done their job right she would probably still be alive. If she was not homeless or if she had private insurance, she likely would still be alive. But now a life is lost. A family mourns, two children will never see their mother again. She died, most likely, because she was black and/or (likely and) poor. This is not a reason for anyone to die. Please join me in calling Saint Mary’s Hospital at 314-768-8000 and the Richmond Heights Police Department at 314-645-3000 and demand that something be done. And please share this article! Together we can fight these injustices. One day longer! One day stronger!