Skip to comments.Woman tries to save dying man, but gets stuck with bills
Posted on 07/09/2007 8:58:19 AM PDT by WestTexasWend
-After county won't test victim's blood for viruses, good samaritan left wondering if she was infected-
When Wendy Lee saw a man get hit by a truck that night in May, she had no second thoughts about what she should do.
Lee stopped her Suburban to help 64-year-old Juan Vega, who had been trying to cross Williamson County Road 172 near La Frontera in Round Rock when he was struck by a 2000 Chevrolet pickup. Lee said she could see Vega's cowboy boots lying in the road.
"I called 911 as I was walking up to him, and they walked me through the first steps of CPR and chest compressions," Lee said.
Vega's eyes were open and moving, and he was gasping for air as she put her lips to his and breathed.
The next moment, she was spitting his blood into the grass.
Vega died on the way to Brackenridge Hospital in Austin. When emergency workers saw that Lee, 38, was covered in Vega's blood, they sent her to the hospital to be tested for HIV and hepatitis.
The tests came back negative, but because Williamson County didn't test Vega for those diseases at the scene, Lee is left wondering whether she was exposed to viruses that might affect her health later. Doctors say that six to eight weeks after exposure is the most important time to test for HIV and hepatitis because both viruses take time to show up, but Lee said she cannot afford to get retested.
And more than a month later, she's stuck with almost $3,000 in medical bills.
"When I opened that bill, I wanted to cry," said Lee, a single mother of two teenagers who is a human resource manager at Triple Crown Dog Academy in Hutto. "I kept thinking to myself, 'Didn't I do the right thing?' "
Eric Strelnieks, a staff physician at St. David's Round Rock Medical Center, where Lee was taken after she tried to help Vega, said she was given a shot to prevent hepatitis B, a virus that attacks the liver, and was prescribed medication that slows the development of HIV.
Lee said she stopped taking the medication after a few weeks because it made her nauseated and dizzy.
Lee's health insurance paid a portion of her hospital bill, which was just under $8,000. But she said she can't afford to pay the remainder.
"The way life is right now, $50 is too much to pay," she said.
Testing Vega's blood for diseases could have put the questions to rest, but Williamson County doesn't require such tests unless it is suspected that alcohol or drugs were involved in a fatal accident, said Steve Benton, the justice of the peace who was called to the May 15 wreck.
The driver, an 18-year-old Round Rock man, was not charged.
"I sympathize with (Lee), but if we did a toxicology and blood test every time a fatality occurred, then it would cost the county $2,000 for each test," Benton said. Lee said she asked for Vega's medical records but was told by a state trooper after the accident that they were not available to her because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, a law that prevents patient medical records from being made public.
That might not be the case, said health law attorney Leah Stuart with the law firm Vinson & Elkins. She said Lee would have to make an open records request to any hospital or physician that Vega may have visited, and the health provider would then decide whether to release the information.
"It's a catch-all exception in the (HIPAA) law that pertains to someone whose life has been threatened. Hers could be in this case," Stuart said. "For (Lee) to get those records is a big hurdle."
Lee said that between work and caring for her children, she doesn't have time to deal with paperwork or open records requests.
Socorro Vega, Juan Vega's daughter, met with Lee last month and told her that her father was not sick. But she did not know the last time he had been tested for communicable diseases.
"She was an angel for my dad that moment she stopped. She really just wanted to save his life," Socorro Vega said. "I just hope that she gets help to pay the bills or gets the help she deserves for her good deed."
According to hospital officials in Round Rock and Austin, emergency technicians and first responders who are exposed to patients' blood receive the same testing and medication that Lee received, but their employers' insurance covers the cost.
Lee said she helped Vega because she and others had failed to help the victim of a car accident in front of her Round Rock home this year. She said she later learned that the man lying in the middle of the road had died, and she vowed to help the next person in need.
"I could never regret what I did (for Vega) because I know it was right," she said. "I just wish someone could tell me what to do."
I had to read that title a couple times.
If a person's eyes are open and moving and he is gasping for air then their is no reason to try to administer CPR. You might try to see if you can clear the airway if he is gasping, but if he is gasping for air then there is clearly no reason to attempt nor benefit of assisted breathing or chest compressions.
Wow...those are some expensive tests!!! Too bad she can’t drive up to Canada and have it done....could she?
Just shows how ridiculous medical costs ( tests to be exact ) are becoming. $2000 for a series of blood tests that have been standardized and somewhat automated past the sample retrieval.
Good thing you’re a Dr. Most people don’t and won’t know that — when faced in the same situation...and stating so as you just did...won’t stop someone from trying to save them. Seems like a natural instictive thing to do.
Does anyone have Wendy Lee’s mailing address or know how to contact her?
Sad. This reminds me of the old saying that no good deed goes unpunished.
There must be some anonymous rich guy in Austin who could pay her bills out of his pocket change out of the goodness of his heart, which would seem to be the best solution.
No, you don’t give CPR to somebody who is breathing, but how was this poor woman to know that? She was doing her best to help.
- Don't always expect to get rewardrd for doing the right thing. More often, the result is the opposite.
- It seems the daughter could help her out a bit here - It seems that the taxpayers should help out here too.
We all know that somebody else has to pay. After all, we are a bunch of stupid children, and somebody else always has to pay. One should not entertain for a moment that one should be responsible for one's own bills.
So, the question becomes, which somebody else has to pay? The local rescue squad? The Mayor's office? The Feds?
Maybe we should just replace all levels of government with a big ATM that will pay everybody for everything.
No good deed goes unpunished
It’s basic CPR training -— coughing or making noise — no CPR (other than clearing airway).
Presumably, if a person knows how to do chest compressions, they also remember that.
They don’t say whether the deceased was an illegal immigrant, so he must have been.
We’ve had our share of medical expenses lately and what ticks me is that if we were illegals, we wouldn’t be paying any of it. She should have those expenses waived for trying to save the guys life.
I bet the call was taped. Depending on what she said to 911 and what they said back to her, it may be that she was advised to perform CPR on a breathing man. If that were so, then the risk of infection brought on by that dangerous and unecessary act may be something that she could sue for.
I don't care much for lawsuits, but it seems like she got bad advice and now has to pay for it. That ain't right.
Well, current CPR technique calls for chest compressions only, but it seems pretty clear the guy didn’t need CPR at all.
“Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instructions given over the phone by emergency dispatchers to lay rescuers should focus primarily on continuous chest compressions instead of the traditional ABC’s - “airway, breathing, circulation,” according to Dr. Paul Pepe, chairman of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
“Dr. Pepe, along with international colleagues from the Council of Standards for the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (NAED), made the recommendation in the May issue of the journal Resuscitation.
“The council had been asked to update and modify protocols for emergency dispatchers who may need to give rapid telephone instructions on how to perform CPR. The council’s recommendations were based largely on experimental data and a supportive clinical trial that found improved survival with a “compressions-only” approach. The council’s recommendations were also based on the notion that simplifying the guidelines would increase the chances that CPR will be performed since some people may be reluctant to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.”
And those tests only cost about $125 here in Hawaii. I’ve not had insurance that would pay for that stuff, and annually checked my cholesterol, along with a check for Hep and HIV. $8000??? Something aint right here.
Seriously? I thought most people would know their basic lifesaving ABC's, Airway, Breathing and Circulation. If you don't, I'm sure your community Red Cross has inexpensive courses. All of my kids have taken the course and are CPR trained. Everyone should know this stuff. I hate being the only one around who could save my life.
“She was an angel for my dad that moment she stopped. She really just wanted to save his life,” Socorro Vega said. “I just hope that she gets help to pay the bills or gets the help she deserves for her good deed.”
Uh.... well... how about YOU helping out, eh? I mean, seeing as how he was YOUR FATHER and all...
I can relate to that. My husband had open heart surgery two years ago and is on about a million meds, and I'm being treated for lung cancer for the second time. Like good responsible citizens, we made sure we had health insurance. But there's a lot that health insurance doesn't cover.
As an example, I would love to have a portable oxygen concentrator, but my policy has a $1000 annual lease limit on DME and I can't afford to pay to purchase one outright ($4000-$6000). But if I was on Medicaid, I could get the latest fanciest portable concentrator available and it wouldn't cost me a dime. I'm beginning to think it doesn't pay to be responsible.
This is what I am looking for in this thread. Would you answer a dopey question and tell us where to get a barrier mask? One should be in my glove box, no question about it.
screw that...I drive by all accident scenes
Maybe Michael Moore will take her to Cuba to get any additional health care FOR FREE!
What a deal! Man, I wanna live in Cuba! It *must* be like a paradise!
Of course she did the right thing. I think Vega's auto insurance should pay for her expenses.
People have separated themselves from paying for their own and their families’ medical bills so completely.
The right thing to do is rarely the least expensive thing to do. That aside, she should sue the estate.
Can you bellieve that? Thank you lawyers for your stupid law writing.
OMG, I show my dogs at Triple Crown.
Not her directly, but you can contact who appears to be her employer here:
Most of the places that sell uniforms or medical supplies carry them. I’ll see if I can find some links to on-line companies.
Yeah, chest compressions can cause internal injuries. You only do it if the person’s heart is stopped. Then the choice is between quick death or having a shot at revival with internal injuries from the CPR.
People have separated themselves from paying for their own and their families medical bills so completely.
This loaded statement of mine bears an addendum. When people who are willing to pay for their own equipment and meds find out the real cost, it is a shock. Much of the cost comes from others’ unpaid bills, and the inflated cost the insurance companies are willing to pay.
Of course. Thanks.
Because the one time in one thousand the test is wrong John F'n Edwards or one of his stand-ins will sue the medical company for malpractice and cost them half a million dollars defending themselves.
I forgot, her extension is #1109
The first thing to do is to ensure that the Airway is clear.
The second thing to do is to check for Breathing.
The third thing to do is to check Circulation.
You only administer Mouth-to-Mouth if the person is NOT BREATHING. And you only administer chest compressions if there is no blood circulation. If the person is gasping for breath, then the person is still breathing -- though with difficulty. You should try to eliminate or alleviate whatever is causing the difficulty in breathing. To simply try to force more air through an obstructed airway will not help matters and may actually cause more damage.
It doesn't take a doctor to know that. (I'm not one, but I remember enough of the CPR training that I had in middle school and high school over 25 years ago that I would at least know these basics.) If you would not have known the ABC's of CPR as I just explained them and how to apply them in an emergency, then I would recommend that you find a CPR course from your local YMCA or community center and take one ASAP and get your family members to take it along with you.
Well said CD.
How do you check circulation?
“I called 911 as I was walking up to him, and they walked me through the first steps of CPR and chest compressions,” Lee said.
Early in the story.
Presumably, if a person knows how to do chest compressions, they also remember that.
From the article: "I called 911 as I was walking up to him, and they walked me through the first steps of CPR and chest compressions," Lee said.
So it would seem that she got some bad advice from the 911 operator.
Check for a pulse.
So what is the amswer, decide if it’s better to save a life or is the expense going to be to much?
Gently find the carotid artery and lightly press it with your first or first and second fingers to feel for a pulse. You can also try the veins in the wrist, but the carotid artery is much easier to detect a pulse. NEVER use your thumb to try to check for a pulse because you will feel your own pulse rather than that of the victim.
And yet she attempted to do mouth-to-mouth breathing on someone who was already gasping for breath. This means that either she completely misunderstood what she was told by the 911 dispatcher or got very bad instructions.