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Searching For Closure In Mount Carmel's Medical Records

Lisa Sebring holds up a photo of her son Adam, who died at Mount Carmel West five years ago.
Paige Pfleger
Lisa Sebring holds up a photo of her son Adam, who died at Mount Carmel West five years ago.

It’s been five years since Lisa Sebring's son Adam died at Mount Carmel West.

“He was 23 when he passed away,” Sebring says. “Six foot five, 270 pounds full of sunshine.”

She smiles fondly at a photo on her kitchen table of Adam making a funny face. In the years since he overdosed on heroin, she put most of his photos out of sight – it was too painful to be reminded of him, she says.

But now that a Mount Carmel doctor stands accused of ordering excessive doses of pain medication for his patients, she says the reminders of Adam feel unavoidable.

“Every time the news comes on and they start talking about it, it’s like reliving it over again,” she says. “Like getting punched in the stomach, you know?”

Sebring doesn’t know if William Husel was Adam’s doctor, or if Adam received fentanyl during his stay in Mount Carmel’s ICU. And she’s not one of the 34 families the hospital has identified and contacted since firing Husel in December. The hospital first told the public about the allegations in January.

As soon as Siebring heard the news, she knew she needed to know for sure.

“Part of me wonders if I want somebody to blame, you know?” she says. “But I just feel like if indeed this guy did do something to him, I want him held accountable.”

This week, Sebring went to Mount Carmel and requested Adam’s medical records. She’s one of about 500 people, according to the hospital, who have requested the medical records of their loved ones in the last month.

Juanita Myers, the mother of Debbi Myers, died at Mount Carmel West's ICU unit in March 2017.
Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU
Juanita Myers, the mother of Debbi Myers, died at Mount Carmel West in March 2017. Now Debbi is worried her mother may have received "excessive" doses of painkillers while an ICU patient.

In a statement, a hospital spokeswoman says the number of records requests has been consistent with the usual average, and has not gone up significantly since news broke of Husel's firing in January.

“We’re basically a month out,” says Attorney Gerald Leeseberg.

Leeseberg is representing many of the families bringing civil lawsuits against Husel and Mount Carmel. As of Tuesday, 19 wrongful death suits have been filed against the hospital and doctor.

“I would say in that month we’ve probably talked to 50 people, 50 patients' families specifically about Mount Carmel cases, who had not been contacted or notified by Mount Carmel," Leeseberg says.

Timeline: The Mount Carmel Scandal So Far

He says in some cases, families already had their medical records from the hospital. In others, his office helped obtain them. And some people who call simply don’t fit the profile of the case, because their loved one wasn’t in the ICU, for example.

Attorney David Schroyer also represents families in civil suit against Mount Carmel. Much like Leeseberg, Schroyer's office has been contacted by about 25 families.

A month after news about Husel first broke, there are more people out there with seeds of doubt but who haven’t yet begun the process.

“My mom, she was also my best friend,” says Debbi Myers, crying. “She was so quirky and funny and kind.”

Debbi Myers holds up pictures of her mother, Juanita, who died at Mount Carmel West in March 2017.
Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU
Debbi Myers holds up pictures of her mother, Juanita, who died at Mount Carmel West in March 2017.

Her mother Juanita died in March 2017 after a few days in the ICU at Mount Carmel West. She says when she heard about what happened at the hospital, she was concerned.

“We were at peace when they said they contacted everyone and they didn’t contact us, but… the stories seemed kind of familiar,” she says. “And it made me nervous.”

She started trying to construct a timeline of her mom’s stay in the ICU. She pulls out a stack of papers – emails updating her friends on her mom’s condition.

“This is where the doctor gave us nothing but bad news,” she reads, pointing at a line in the email. “And this jumped out at me, it said, ‘None of the other doctors seem to have such dire news. Her infection is lessening, she’s starting to move. I don’t know what to think.’ That was on the 15th. She died two days later.”

She decided she wanted the medical records but she wasn’t sure how to go about retrieving them. She called Mount Carmel’s hotline number, where a representative from the hospital tells her about forms she needs to fill out, get notarized and bring into the records department. She may have to pay a fee to get copies of all the medical records.

“It will be worth it,” she says. “To get peace of mind.”

Sebring was told it would take about a week to get the records for her son Adam. While she waits, she wonders what she is hoping to hear back.

“I hope - this sounds terrible - I feel like I would feel better about things if this guy did do something to him,” she says. “Because then I know my son didn’t kill himself.”

She pauses, looking again at Adam’s photo. Regardless of what happens, she says, there are no winners in this situation.

If you are a Mount Carmel staffer who has information to share, or you believe your loved one or family member was impacted by this case, contact WOSU at paige.pfleger@wosu.org.

Paige Pfleger is a former reporter for WOSU, Central Ohio's NPR station. Before joining the staff of WOSU, Paige worked in the newsrooms of NPR, Vox, Michigan Radio, WHYY and The Tennessean. She spent three years in Philadelphia covering health, science, and gender, and her work has appeared nationally in The Washington Post, Marketplace, Atlas Obscura and more.