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The Troubles at King/Drew

The Lost And The Bereaved

An emergency unmet

December 05, 2004|Mitchell Landsberg

BY the time he got to King/Drew, Oluchi McDonald was in such unbearable pain that a nurse described it as 10 on a 10-point scale.

It had begun that morning, March 12, 2003, when he awoke with a stomachache unlike anything he had ever felt, says his roommate, Ben Kutsko.

The two young men, childhood friends from Boulder, Colo., shared an apartment near Los Angeles City College and had spent the night before as they often did, hanging out and watching old movies.

Kutsko took McDonald to a private hospital, which transferred him to King/Drew after learning that he had no health insurance.

At King/Drew, it was six hours before he received pain medication, nearly eight hours before he was admitted to the hospital and 17 hours before he was found on the floor, unconscious, in a pool of his own vomit, a federal investigation found.

An hour later, he was dead.

In all that time, the investigation showed, King/Drew doctors never diagnosed what was wrong with the 20-year-old aspiring artist and photographer who, months earlier, had ridden his mountain bike much of the way from Colorado to L.A.

Nor was there evidence that he was given diagnostic tests much beyond measuring his blood pressure and pulse, both of which pointed to a serious problem.

It took the county coroner to diagnose what had been wrong with McDonald: gangrene of the intestine, which had become twisted.

His mother, Akilah Oliver, a poet and university writing instructor, was moved by his death to start LINKS, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about problems in U.S. healthcare.

"He was a beautiful young man," she says, "who deserves so much more than invisibility."

-- Mitchell Landsberg

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