An Arizona student suffering from a severe life-threatening illness fears she may die because she’s so far been unable to get her medical records after they were repossessed when the hospital that treated her went into bankruptcy.
Caitlin Secrist, 21, is in need of a specific procedure to treat the severe acute pancreatitis from which she suffers, but the surgeon slated to perform surgery has their hands tied, the Arizona Republic reported.
The physician, who works at Johns Hopkins Hospital and is one of the few in the country able to perform the procedure Secrist believes she needs, won’t move forward without access to her medical records and scans, Secrist told the paper.
Secrist said the surgeon needs to ensure she has been correctly diagnosed, as they believe bowel disorders are oftentimes mistaken for pancreatitis.
But Secrist has so far been unable to access her medical records as the documents are locked away in a repossessed electronic records system while bankruptcy creditors and Florence Hospital at Anthem and Gilbert Hospital, which was shuttered in June 2018, debate who pays for access to them.
There have been a number of legal filings and arguments between the creditors and the hospital, which has prevented Secrist from getting her medical records. But in the meantime, Secrist noted that she is in danger of another attack of acute pancreatitis, which could cause her organs to shut down.
“Without those records, we can't go forward,” she said. “We can't make me better. Having my life, practically, in the hands of a judge and people I don't even know, who don't even know my situation, it's upsetting.”
Secrist and her primary care doctor sent letters to Maricopa County Superior Court, where the records are being kept, pushing for their swift release. Federal and state law require medical facilities send patients their medical records within 60 days of a request.
Secrist first suffered an attack of pancreatitis in 2017 and the pain was so severe that she had to crawl to her mother for help on her hands and knees.
“It hit me like a truck,” Secrist told the Republic. “I thought I was going to die; it was so bad.”
Secrist was rushed to an emergency room, where she learned her pancreas was malfunctioning in a way that it began digesting itself. She can no longer eat by mouth, instead consuming nutrients through a feeding tube connected to her stomach. She has endured multiple surgeries that have not worked and has been hospitalized more than a dozen times, she said. Without the surgery meant to be performed by the doctor at Johns Hopkins, it may only be a matter of time before she dies.
“It’s just like a ticking time bomb,” Secrist said.
A 2016 study showed the fatality rate for patients with severe acute pancreatitis can be as high as 50 percent.