A family in Wisconsin is seeking answers following the death of 25-year-old Tashonna Ward — she died on Jan. 2 about an hour after leaving the emergency room, where she was seen for shortness of breath and chest pain. After an initial exam, she was told to wait for treatment — she posted on Facebook that she was told the wait time could be between two and six hours.
A report obtained by the outlet showed that while at the hospital, Ward had a chest x-ray that diagnosed her with a cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart). An electrocardiogram recorded a normal heartbeat, so Ward’s family told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel she was asked to remain in the waiting room until staff could give her further medical attention.
Ward left the hospital at 7:35 p.m. after reportedly waiting 2½ hours, her family told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Less than an hour later, she collapsed and was transported back to that same hospital in an ambulance. She arrived unresponsive at 9:07 p.m and was soon pronounced dead, the Sentinel reported.
“How can you triage someone with shortness of breath and chest pain, and stick them in the lobby?” Ward’s cousin, Andrea Ward, said. “Froedtert needs to change their policy.”
Ward’s cause of death has not yet been determined by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office; Family members are scheduled to meet with hospital representatives next week.
A spokesperson for Froedtert Hospital provided a statement to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “The family is in our thoughts and has our deepest sympathy. We cannot comment further at this time.” The hospital did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
During her time at Froedtert, Ward posted several times on Facebook about her frustrations over the long wait time.
“I really hope I’m not in this emergency room all night,” she wrote at 5:45 p.m.
“[I don’t know] what they can do about the emergency system at Froedtert but they damn sure need to do something,” she wrote at 7:35 p.m. “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.”
ProPublica compiled wait time data from October 2017 to October 2018. Though the urgency of the condition and arrival time are wide variants, patient wait time before being admitted to the hospital averaged 4 hours and 44 minutes at Froedtert’s emergency room. About 3 percent of patients left without being seen, their data said.
Andrea has started a GoFundMe for her late cousin. She told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel she hopes changes are made by Froedtert on Ward’s behalf. “She was sunshine,” Andrea said.