Amy Vilela believes that her 22-year-old daughter, Shalynne, died because Shalynne told the ER staff at a medical center in Las Vegas that she was uninsured and therefore, got sub-standard care.
Amy told AlterNet that she was out of town at the time, but recalled getting phone calls from Shalynne's boyfriend: "I could hear her screaming in the background, saying it was the worst pain of her life. And I'm like ... okay, then take her to the hospital."
That ER visit would eventually trigger a lawsuit by the Vilela family over Shalynne's death.
The boyfriend took Shalynne to the Centennial Hills ER where she told the intake staff that she was uninsured. Shalynne also told them she was suffering severe pain in her calf and knee.
The lawsuit says that after the staff learned Shalynne was uninsured, they did not take her medical history, didn't give her medication for her excruciating pain, and didn't have her examined by a doctor.
Shalynne was ending her marriage, and was not on her parents' health insurance (per Obamacare) at the time.
The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) requires that ER departments stabilize and treat patients, regardless of whether or not the patient can pay or is insured.
The young woman's health history, which the Centennial Hills staff allegedly did not ask for, included sickle-cell anemia trait, PCOS-induced obesity, cigarette smoking and NuvaRing contraceptive use, reports AlterNet.
Additionally, Shalynne had been on a 22-hour drive from Kansas City, Missouri to Las Vegas a few weeks earlier.
These factors added up to deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot in a deep vein. This often happens in the leg, and causes serious swelling and pain.
According to the Mayo Clinic: "Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition because blood clots in your veins can break loose, travel through your bloodstream and lodge in your lungs, blocking blood flow (pulmonary embolism)."
Both Amy and Shalynne's boyfriend stated in their depositions that Shalynne asked for an MRI, but the staff refused and took an X-ray instead.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says the usual test to diagnose deep vein blood clots is an ultrasound. Another diagnostic tool is a D-dimer test, which checks the blood for a bodily substance that creates blood clots. Another tool is a venography, which is when dye is put into the leg's vein so that an X-ray can see the blood flow. Other tests include a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is what Shalynne wanted, or a computed tomography (CT) scan.
"They're not helping me, Mommy," Shalynne told Amy over the phone.
The ER staff reportedly told the young woman that she needed surgery, said they couldn't do that because she did not have health insurance, and sent her home in a knee brace.
Shalynne's leg continued swelling, and she had problems breathing when using stairs.
Shalynne flew to Kansas City, where her dad lives, and she soon experienced chest pains. Her dad called 911 and, later, his ex-wife, Amy.
"I knew in my gut that it wasn’t good," Amy told AlterNet. "I can still hear his voice. I’ve never heard him like this. He was saying there was an ambulance, now they say she coded, I’m thinking, she’s 22. I’m in shock, thinking, she’s probably okay, she’s probably upset or something."
Shalynne had suffered a pulmonary embolism.
At a Kansas City hospital, Shalynne bled out all medications that were given to dissolve her blood clot, and was placed on life support so her family could say their farewells.
The doctors at the hospital encouraged Amy to leave her daughter while they removed life support, but Amy refused: "I'm not leaving her side. I'm gonna be there with her when she leaves this world."
Shalynne applied for Medicaid after the Las Vegas hospital incident, and the paperwork came the week she died.