Laura Levis died of treatable asthma on the doors of a Massachusetts emergency room at the age of 34, following a heartbreaking story her husband Peter Demarco had written in Globe Magazine.
DeMarco previously published an open letter to the staff of CHA Somerville Hospital, thanking him for treating his wife and family with dignity.
But that was before he knew the whole story.
Before that, Laura had called 911.
Before he knew she had gone to the hospital.
Before he knew, Laura had made it only a few feet from the emergency room door.
Now, his gratefulness has turned into horror and anger over the series of simple but catastrophic failures that led to his wife's death right outside the hospital.
Laura Levis (left) died at the age of 34 after an asthma attack right outside the door of a Massachusetts hospital. After her husband Peter DeMarco (right) learned of the mistakes of the hospital staff and the 911 dispatcher, he wrote the terrifying story of her death in Globe Magazine
Every year about 3,500 people die of asthma attacks. Most of them do not have much in common with Laura.
Nearly half of people who die from asthma are over 65 years old.
Laura was young and perfectly fit.
According to a recent Johns Hopkins University estimate, more than 250,000 Americans kill hospital failures each year.
We do not know exactly how many people died when they were waiting for an ambulance, or that 911 drivers did not do their job well enough, but even emergency personnel have anecdotally said the problem is getting worse.
We know that a death was the result of all these failures.
Levis has had asthma for a long time. She was used to dealing with occasional attacks. However, on September 16, 2016, Levis realized that the attack would not simply subside.
Despite her asthma, Laura is incredibly fit and lifts and runs competitively
What seemed like a comfort would prove to be one of the crucial facts of Levi's death.
She was just a short walk from the hospital. As it became increasingly difficult to breathe, Levis approached CHA Somerville shortly after four in the morning.
Levis was hard, according to her husband. She was 5 feet 2 inches, but was able to bench press more than her own bodyweight, ran and raised weights in the competition.
Surveillance cameras outside the hospital show that Levis stopped in the hospital driveway and discuss which of the two entrances is closest to the emergency room.
She tried, but the sliding glass door did not move as she stood in front of it, peering inside.
So Levis made his way to the second entrance. She almost made it. Only two meters from the second door, she sat down on a bench.
Panting, Laura called 911.
"I'm in Somerville Hospital, I have an asthma attack, I'm dying," she told the voice on the other line.
She spoke to a regional dispatcher who tried to clear her whereabouts, then called the local Somerville police station.
The two dispatchers went back and forth about Laura, who could barely speak at the time.
Emergency workers use cell tower pings to triangulate a person's position.
DeMarco and Levis lived apart when she died. He did not know that his wife had tried to call 911 and waited 10 minutes for help until she was taken out of life
This ability has undoubtedly saved countless lives, as it is certainly more precise than relying on the descriptions of the environment given by humans during the emergency.
However, the technology is far out of date. If the GPS app is encoded in the background of your smartphone, you can order the pickup to a closer location than the answering machine can call the caller.
The pings on Levis' phone indicated that she had either collapsed on the street in the far right corner of the hospital or was in the opposite corner behind the hospital.
When CHA Somerville told DeMarco that his two-year-old wife had been at the last place they were contacted by 911, it might be true if they had gone to those two GPS locations first.
Or it could have been an exaggerated statement, a badly chosen cliché.
Or because she had lost consciousness on a bank just before the second hospital admission, it could have been a bold lie.
"On the 911 band you hear Laura's voice again. "I'm out there," she begins to say, before trying to create a different tone, "DeMarco writes.
"It's 4:25 and 36 seconds. It's the last time Laura speaks. "
Dispatchers for 911 calls ask callers where emergencies are, and use paging towers to call ping phones to identify the location. Levis tried the one entrance (A), but was locked. She almost made it to the second (B), but collapsed on a bench (star). Pings on her cell phone (red) indicated that she was much further away, at one of two distant corners of the hospital grounds
As DeMarco explains, the countdown of Levis began. Although there is no precise time limit on how long someone can be without oxygen, the brain starts for about 10 minutes.
Every second there is a higher risk of brain damage, a higher risk that you will never wake up again.
The dispatcher had called an ambulance and did not know that he would have found Levis handy without anyone leaving the hospital.
DeMarco, a former Boston Globe journalist, scored every second that was wasted with awful detail.
It's hard to imagine listening to every call recording and taking surveillance pictures of the moments when his wife was rescued in time – so often – and then overlooked.
When it was finally found by firefighters, it was too late. The doctors did not yet know that DeMarco did not even know his wife had an asthma attack, and DeMarco writes from her conversations with the 911 dispatcher that his wife's final thoughts were likely that the help is likely to be gone. 39;
The next morning, DeMarco received the call from Somerville that his wife had a cardiac arrest. DeMarco and Levis had been living apart for several weeks, so he did not know about the asthma attack.
But just in the hospital a change of shift took place – 15 minutes before the hospital contacted DeMarco. When DeMarco arrived, no one had been in the hospital when Laura was finally admitted.
"But now I wonder, why did the emergency room wait two and a half hours after Laura was admitted to contact me? Was it just a coincidence that I was called 15 minutes after leaving the night shift staff? ", He writes.
There is a chance that Levis will wake up when the swelling around her brain wears off and she has not been without oxygen for too long.
So DeMarco waited seven days with Levis before a doctor told him, Levi's father and Demarco's father that the woman they all loved would not wake up and it was time to let them go.
Levis lost consciousness and could not breathe for 10 minutes. If any of the mistakes in the DeMarco details had not been made, she might have regained consciousness
He even remembered the doctor's behavior as admirable.
"In a gesture of humility [Dr Duncan] Kuhn sat on the floor and looked up at us when he told us that Laura did not come back. "
Nobody mentioned where or when it was found, or the 911 appeal or any of the mistakes that preceded Levi's death.
DeMarco wrote a public letter of thanks, published in The New York Times.
Since then, Levis' uncle has followed his gut feeling and called the local police station. This led him to the 911 call and began the process of educating the death of Levis, which DeMarco has since infiltrated.
The uncle named Levis & # 39; father, even a doctor, who told DeMarco about the 911 call.
"Pete, I have the worst thing I have to tell you," said my father-in-law. "They killed Laura," DeMarco recalls.
DeMarco attempted to sue the hospital for misconduct, and city and state officials investigated the death of Levis.
The Department of Health and Human Services even investigated this and found that CHA Somerville was negligent. The government agreed with the hospital 90,000 US dollars.
Levis wore a hoodie of the Spartan race that she and DeMarco had shared when they died. DeMarco, a former journalist, was first grateful to Somerville for treating her with dignity the week she was in a coma. Then she was angry when he learned of her negligence
But that was as much as the million dollar company that owns this hospital could be held liable, thanks to a government restriction on how much a hospital receiving Medicare funds can be sued.
DeMarco is mad at this beanie and, above all, he is angry at a woman he calls only Nurse X. In the early morning of Levis' death, many places in the hospital, like the security staff, were simply unmanned, so there is a charge.
But with his frightening words, "Watching the surveillance video, Sister X takes a step outside the ambulance door and is no further than an arm away from her.
"In the darkness of darkness, Sister X cranes her neck a bit to see her, but she does not spot Laura on the bench, which is almost in front of her field of vision, albeit in a shadow."
I saw the video: "Laura was only about 30 meters away from her; They both see in the same frame of the surveillance video shot from the top, "writes DeMarco.
But several minutes would pass and cost Laura her life.
Now DeMarco is just beginning to heal. He writes that he had to move out of the hospital for a year before sitting down on the bench where his wife died and waiting alone for help.
A security guard came to help DeMarco. More than a year too late.
At least he's a little comforted with the new signage posted in the hospital. And that someone was there.