Personal Stories: Chris Bedlam

I wanted to share my brother's story. I am filled with happiness when I read stories of survivors of aortic dissections but our story isn't so happy.

Christopher Bedlam turned 32 on May 15, 2002. On the 19th of May, he asked my mom to take him to the Emergency Room because of chest pain. As they drove, his pain became more severe. It went into his neck and jaw, and down his left arm and into his back. My mom was certain that he was having some kind of cardiac episode.

The ER Dr. did an EKG and a chest X-Ray. He showed the X-Ray to my mom and my brother. He said that Chris had pneumonia. And that his pneumonia was so bad that there was a tear in his lung. My mom questioned this..told the DR. that Chris didn't have a cough, fever..no indications of pneumonia...But the DR. was arrogant. Sent Chris home with an inhaler and antibiotics. The next day he rested and the pain seemed to ease a bit...And on Tuesday, the 21st, he did some normal things...work, errands...and he talked to his fiancée. They were planning on being married the following Saturday so there were many plans to be made.

She told Chris that he sounded tired and maybe they should postpone things until he felt better. But of course Chris being Chris, he said "I'm fine..nothing can happen to me. We have too much left to do." Two hours later, he called my mom at work and asked her to please call the Dr. because his chest pain was worse...almost unbearable. She said of course, that she loved him, and that she'd be there soon. She started to call the Dr. but got a funny feeling and asked her friend at work to please call Chris and tell him that she was just going to come straight to his apartment to take him back to the ER. She could not get through...the phone was busy.

My mom frantically called my older brother and they both headed over to Chris's house...They couldn't get an answer and had to wait a bit for the mgr. to let them in...The Mgr. ran up the stairs while my mom checked the rest of the apt...apparently, the Mgr. found Chris collapsed on the floor...not breathing..phone still in his hand. The paramedics were called and after almost an hour of furiously working on Chris, they told my Mom that they had called the hospital and the Dr. had pronounced him dead..There was nothing else they could do...So began our nightmare...We had no idea why he'd died, so we had to wait weeks and weeks for the autopsy report.

The final report said that Chris had died of an acute aortic dissection...We had never heard of this so, we researched it. Chris' best friend is a lawyer so he checked into some things...

To make a long story a little less long, the DR. in the ER had misread the X-Ray. The tear he saw was Chris' aorta, not his lung. We got a letter 6 days after Chris died from the Radiologist at the hospital saying that he needed to return immediately for a recheck. Of course it was too late.

We talked to 2 Cardiologists and both of them said that had they done surgery on Sunday, 2 days before, Chris probably would have had a 95 percent chance of survival...So, we filed a malpractice suit. Kaiser settled quickly..The lawyers saying that it was cheaper to settle a malpractice suit than to pay for his surgery and aftercare.

Chris was young and healthy...nothing that might suggest he was at risk for an aortic dissection..He had served in Desert Storm and was an amazing person...A beloved son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, and friend. I pray that a DR. sees this..and takes one more look at that X-Ray that is a little unclear...Or someone else reads this and just knows that the world lost an incredible person in Chris.

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