Tashonna Ward was the 25-year-old Wisconsin woman who passed away after waiting for multiple hours in an emergency room at Froedtert Hospital. The report from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner explained that Ward went to the ER on January 2, 2020, for chest pains.
Ward underwent routine tests and was then told she would have to wait to receive additional medical care. After 2.5 hours, Ward decided to leave and seek treatment at a separate urgent care facility. But she collapsed and had to be rushed back to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Tashonna Ward Died Less Than Five Hours After Checking Herself In at the Emergency Room For Chest Pains & Tightness of Breath
Tashonna Ward arrived at the Froedtert Hospital emergency room just before 5 p.m. on January 2, 2020, after experiencing chest pains and difficulty breathing. Her sister was with her at the time. Ward had also texted their mother to inform her why she was headed to the emergency room.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner report, which can be seen in full here, explains that doctors performed “multiple tests” which included an electrocardiogram and a chest x-ray. The results showed that Ward had an enlarged heart. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that, according to Ward’s family, she was told to go back to the lobby and wait for further treatment. Ward reportedly asked the hospital worker at the front desk multiple times when she would be called back again.
The examiner’s report explains that Ward left the hospital just before 7:30 p.m. because “she felt she was waiting too long and decided to go to an Urgent Care.” The report does not indicate whether Ward consulted with any medical professionals before leaving the hospital. It also does not specify how long Ward had been expected to wait in the lobby.
About an hour after Ward left the emergency room, a Froedtert staff member called Ward’s phone. Her sister answered and said that Ward had collapsed beside her vehicle at the Urgent Care. Ward was rushed back to the hospital in an ambulance.
The Medical Examiner explained that Ward was “unresponsive” and “continued to decline” after arriving back at the hospital. She was pronounced dead at 9:25 p.m.
The Ward family requested an autopsy. The cause of death was cited as “hypertensive cardiovascular disease.” The medical examiner’s office determined the manner of death was “natural.”
2. Tashonna Ward Posted On Facebook That She Was Told She May Have to Wait Six Hours Before Seeing a Doctor Again
Tashonna Ward posted multiple times to her Facebook page while she was waiting in the emergency room lobby. The screenshots of her page that are embedded in this section reflect Eastern standard time; Wisconsin is in the Central Time zone.
At 5:45 p.m. CT, Ward wrote, “I really hope I’m not in this emergency room all night.” About an hour later, she explained that the emergency room was “so packed it don’t make no sense,” and expressed frustration that she hadn’t gone to a different facility.
At 7:35, Ward updated her page again to explain that she had been told that the wait time to see a doctor could be up to six hours. She wrote, “Idk what they can do about the emergency system at freodert but they damn sure need to do something. I been here since 4:30 something for shortness of breath, and chest pains for them to just say it’s a two to SIX hour wait to see a dr. Like that is really f*ckin ridiculous.”
Ward was at the emergency room for about 2.5 hours before deciding to seek treatment elsewhere. According to 2017-2018 data compiled by ProPublica, patients at the Froedtert emergency department wait, on average, 4 hours and 44 minutes before being admitted to the hospital. About 3 percent leave without being seen by a medical professional at all.
3. Medical Examiner: Tashonna Ward Developed an Enlarged Heart During a Recent Pregnancy
The medical term for an enlarged heart is Cardiomegaly. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner noted in the report that according to her mother, Tashonna Ward had developed cardiomegaly during a recent pregnancy.
Ward’s due date was in March of 2019. The baby was in breech, meaning that it was facing feet-first, which is very dangerous during birth. The umbilical cord was wrapped around the child’s neck and the newborn died due to the complications.
The examiner’s report does not specify whether Ward maintained an enlarged heart in the months after her pregnancy, or whether it had recently flared up again just prior to her death.
According to the Mayo Clinic, an enlarged heart puts patients at increased risk for heart failure, blood clots, and cardiac arrest. The clinic explains on its website that patients need to seek medical attention if they feel chest pains or are struggling to breathe, as Ward reported when she arrived at the emergency room.
The Mayo Clinic also explains that the condition develops when there is increased pressure on the heart, causing it to beat harder. “An enlarged heart may be the result of short-term stress on the body, such as pregnancy, or a medical condition, such as the weakening of the heart muscle, coronary artery disease, heart valve problems or abnormal heart rhythms.” High blood pressure can also lead to an enlarged heart.
4. Tashonna Ward’s Mother: ‘I Really Don’t Think They Cared About My Daughter’
Tashonna Ward’s mother, Yolanda, told WDJT-TV that she felt it was unacceptable that her daughter had to wait to be treated, especially since an enlarged heart can be a very serious condition. “I’m sorry but I really don’t think they cared about my daughter. She should not have been waiting out there that long.”
The Ward family has consulted with a lawyer about the potential steps they could take to help prevent future tragedies like this, according to WITI-TV.
The family also noted on the GoFundMe campaign that extra money raised would help with “other expenses related to helping change laws, protocols and legislation tied to long wait times in the ER for patients with shortness of breath and chest pain.”
Froedtert Hospital released a short statement following Ward’s death. “The family is in our thoughts and has our deepest sympathy. We cannot comment further at this time.”
5. Tashonna Ward Reported Feeling Unwell While at Work at a Child Care Center
Tashonna Ward spent her days working with children. Her mother, Yolanda Ward, told local TV stations that her daughter was employed at a daycare center and loved her job.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Ward worked at the L&M Links Child Development Center. She reportedly began feeling tightness in her chest during the afternoon of January 2. Her sister drove her to the hospital, the newspaper added.
Ward’s family created a GoFundMe campaign to assist her mother with funeral expenses. On the page, Ward was described as “an amazing daughter, sister, cousin, niece and friend loved by all. Tashonna was always positive and she always put her family first.”
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