Laverne Wilkinson with members of her church via NY Daily News.

After feeling pain in her chest and shortness of breath, Laverne Wilkinson went to the emergency room at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn afraid she was having a heart attack. Doctors quickly checked Wilkinson, ordered an EKG and a chest x-ray and sent her home. Their diagnosis? Take two Motrin and call her doctor if she still felt pain.

That was two years ago. Today, Wilkinson has six months to a year to live, all because E.R. docs missed a 2-centimeter nodule in her right lung. Despite appearing in her original x-ray, physicians didn’t inform Wilkinson that she needed to have a follow up x-ray to see if the nodule was malignant.

Over the next two years, Wilkinson—who is the mother and primary caretaker of her 15-year-old severely retarded daughter—repeatedly returned to the E.R. complaining of a persistent cough and chest pain, and was given inhalers, cough medicine, and pain killers, and sent home. It wasn’t until the spring of 2012, when doctors finally figured out what was really happening to Wilkinson.

She had Stage 4 lung cancer. And in the last two years, while doctors were treating her for minor illnesses, it spread to her liver, spine, and brain.

She was devastated.

“I was shocked. I was told I had six months to a year to live,” Wilkinson told the New York Daily News. Her biggest worry? Her daughter.

“She is going to be left without a mother. What is going to happen to my little girl?”

While Wilkinson’s dismal diagnosis was shocking, but what’s worst is the news that had doctors caught the small lump in 2010 when it appeared on the x-ray, she may have been cured.

“If you find a lung cancer early, before it has invaded lymph nodes, the cure rate is 75%,” Dr. Roy Herbst, chief of medical oncology at the Yale School of Medicine, told the Daily News. “Once it spreads, a cure doesn’t exist.”

Wilkinson hired an attorney and is suing the city for damages. While she hopes to win so she can provide for her daughter after her death, all she really wants is to be able to be there for her daughter.

“I am just going to say there is no amount of money in the world,” Wilkinson said, her voice cracking with emotion. “If someone was to give me a choice between having money or having my life back and my health back, I would choose my health and having my life back for the sake of this beautiful, little girl.”

Wilkinson also hopes her tragedy will help improve how others are treated so that no one has to go through and ordeal like hers.

“Doctors need to be more careful and realize they have the lives of their patients in their hands,” she noted. “They are human and do make mistakes. If it were a mistake where I was going to lose a lung and still live, then I could deal with that.”

Sadly, she won’t be able to.

*To read more about Wilkinson’s story visit the New York Daily News website.

  • victoria

    May God Bless her with many more years. Hopefully, this will be a case of being told she has 6 months to live, but will still be around for decades to come.
    Im especially concerned about her retarded daughter. It’s difficult finding adequate care for those with disabilities. I know that must be her greatest concern (finding the right person to care for her daughter).

  • Reina

    I’m speechless. This is so sad.

  • myblackfriendsays

    I’m assuming she didn’t have insurance, or was on Medicaid. This does not surprise me at all. It reminds me of that little boy who died from an infected tooth because his mother couldn’t get him into see a dentist that accepted Medicaid.

    Hospitals are a business, like most everything else these days. And if you don’t have money to pay, most of them don’t give a —- about you.

  • moemiel

    i know this si gonna sound dumb bc we r talking about the mom, but the use of the word retarded was quite shocking to me. we dont use that word anymore bc of its neg connotations. mentally challenged is more appropriate. just saying

    and the mom is in control of her health too. Did she demand they do better, did she advocate for herself or was it a doctor knows best scenario ? did she make noise, file a complaint with the patient services department? go to another ER for a second opinion?
    Not negating the sadness of the situation at all …it is very sad.

  • victoria

    I believe the clinical term is retarded. Many moons ago, I worked in a group home for people with disabilities and the word was used by medical and other staff. I was shocked, but we were told that clinically it is the proper word.

  • Smilez_920

    Kings County hospital is known for this type of BS. That hospital should have been closed or under investigation years ago. There’s a good chance she probably had Medicade , which leaves no funds for a second opinion at a different medical facility

  • Smilez_920

    In those type of hospitals the customer complaint department ( if they have one) could give two sh*ts about what a person with Medicade ( if that’s what this woman has) has to say about their services. The point is these people didnt do their job/ they did a half behind job and now a child will go without a mother . And depending on what type of insurance she has and what her income is, she might not be able to afford a second opinion .

  • Niki

    Kings County has been in the news before…poor woman.

  • Melissa

    I am happy she has support from her church members but where is her family? Maybe this is her family. They should be sitting next to her for support. This is a sad story. My prayers go out to her and her daughter.

  • Misshightower

    Moemiel, this sounds worse than “dumb”….your words. How about insensitive, other-worldly, not in touch with the plight of those who are at the mercy of the health care system? Hope YOU stay well and in charge!

  • ruggie

    Kings County, the same hospital where female mental patient died on floor from neglect.

  • isola

    If anyone has been to Kings County Hospital, they would understand why this happened. I spent a night in their emergency room once. Watched my grandfather die there. And I went there for an after school program when I considered medicine as a profession. Lets just say I ruled out medical school.

  • BDH

    The hospital better give her enough to provide for her child for a lifetime! If those doctors saw that nodule, the first thing they should have done was perform a biopsy. And what does it matter if she has Medicare/Medicaid or private health insurance? She’s still in need of help, and those doctors need to pay up for their negligence!

    BTW, that hospital is the most sued hospital in the NYC hospital system, so I’m not surprised… And that’s the hospital where Esmin Green was on the ground in the ER for hours, and no one helped her. (Police officers and doctors walked by, too.)

  • Leia

    So sad. Also sad that the writer referred to her daughter as “retarded” really?

  • EST. 1986

    I, too was going to say that she must have not had insurance.

    *It was only after I had dental insurance did the dentist tell me I had cavities. This was several years ago.

  • EST. 1986

    This woman probably didn’t have health care insurance. Doctors will not tell you much if they aren’t being paid, even though it is their job to care for your health.

    And, this is one of the reasons why health care should be free and not in the control of your employer.

  • SpkKay13

    Please review the link below. As a special educator, I cringe each and every time someone erroneously refers to someone as mentally retarded. The correct terminology is INTELLECTUALLY DISABLED. Before anyone makes a comment about people’s unawareness due to them being unaffiliated and/or unfamiliar with special education, if you have internet access, as you do because you are on this site, google it. The information is at your fingertips. All you have to do is take the time and research to ensure that your statements are factual. I honestly had a hard time reading past the “mentally retarded” statement. In addition, use “people first” language. A person’s disability or sickness is a facet of who they are. However, it does not define them. Therefore, when writing an article in which you are referring to someone who has an illness or disability, ALWAYS reference the person FIRST and condition last. Example, “The woman is the primary caregiver for her daughter who has an intellectual disability.” “The woman is the primary caregiver of her intellectually disabled daughter,” is inappropriate.

    Mental Retardation – Why the Term Mental Retardation is Banned by Federal Government

  • Jaz

    Kings County is a death trap! And has been for years.

  • Courtney**

    I didn’t realize we could either care about colorism OR the state of healthcare, but not both?

    And at the end of the day, the two topics are more related than you think…

  • binks

    Agred on both accounts! Mentally disable/challenged would be a better fit but retarded is flat out wrong and offensive…let’s get it together Clutch. The female thing was a slide on the last article but this…not such much. But my heart goes out to her and her family this could have neen caugt early…this os what happens when you treat patients as cattle and numbers amd not individuals needed of treatment. Never be afraid to go for a second opinion people no matter how trivial or stange your health has to be in your hands because the calibar of doctors/hospitals aren’t the same…

  • Anthony

    There is nothing about the picture of that poor woman with all of those white folks with crap eating grins posing with her that irritates the hell out of me. Maybe I am making assumptions about people who are really trying to help her, but I sure wish somebody gave a damn about her when they could have actually cured her!

    Cussing aside, I am praying for a miracle for this poor woman.

  • seriously?

    The writer met no disrespect with the word: the term mental retardation or mental severe retardation is an official medical term.

  • Beautiful Mic

    You’re saying the diagnosis was missed. There’s something about that and her, with a solemn face, being surrounded by smiling non-black faces that bothers me.

  • Ms. Information

    I may need to go to Racist’s Anonymous because all those white women smiling around this poor Black women eeeks the hell out of me..

  • AM

    severly “retarded”—>woah! Physically and or mentally challenged would have sufficed! It’s more humane. I don’t care what the dictionary says,

    Wish her nothing but the best.

  • Patrisha

    Oh my goodness…besides this being a very sad situation. That is exactly what I thought about. As a matter of fact, that is why I didn’t comment.

  • Ms. Information


  • p

    @ AM. You are so right. Don’t like the term “retarded”. It irritates me. And I’m not neighborly with using the term “mentally challenged”. I prefer the term “mentally developing”.

  • VXR

    Regardless of whether or not a person does or does not have insurance, you have to be your own health advocate. It is very challenging to find quality healthcare providers. Mistakes are made at the best and worst hospitals. I feel for this woman and her family.

  • VXR

    Interesting how a picture can be interpreted in so many ways. I see a terminally ill woman surrounded by people who care. It is a good thing that she is not alone.

  • VXR

    Interesting how a picture can be interpreted in so many ways. I see a terminally ill woman surrounded by people who care. It is a good thing that she is not alone.

  • Anthony

    That story upset me so much that I did not see where the woman posing with Ms. Wilkinson are her church members. I am sorry for saying bad things about those women who are supporting Ms. Wilkinson through such a needless difficulty.

  • Britni Danielle

    Hey Ladies,

    I referred to her daughter as “severely retarded” because that’s the medical term (and it was also used in the original article). While “retarded” is not a word that is used often (and my find disrespectful), especially to describe people with slight to moderate mental challenges, it IS the proper medical term which refers to more than just mental challenges, but also physical ones as well.

  • The Other Jess

    I’m sorry for her situation, but I have to wonder why she kept going to the ER instead of to her GP or internist. ER doctors are trained to look for immediately life-threatening situations, or those that could severely injure immediately. Rarely do they have the time, inclination or experience to diagnose a slow-moving illness – they are looking for current emergencies.
    I wish she’d known to just go to a regular doctor!

  • Fantastico

    Well, I’d say she had little or no Health Insurance and limited funds to see a GP or internist.

    The ER is where no one is ever turned away.

    I know if she tried to go to doctors I’ve used she would be turned away, if she didn’t have expensive PPO insurance.

    Unfortunately, even with the changes from Obama Care the cost of health care can be prohibitive.

  • Lala

    Black woman and WOC are statistically misdiagnosed more often than there white counterparts. My dissertation was on this topic and it’s shocking. Due in part to institutional racism and ignorance on the part of the patient. Ladies and Gentlemen of Clutch i implore you to be persistent and find out what you are entitled too.

  • auntietonya

    I was surprised by such a misdiagnosis until I saw she kept going to Kings County, which is notorious. But anyone with concerns about their health should seek a second opinion from different doctors, regardless of insurance. It’s not easy but there are hospitals that offer sliding scale, Medicaid, etc. You should explore every option where your health is concerned and be insistent on the best treatment. I remember the story of another Black woman turned away from care at a hospital – they said she was too aggressive or belligerent or whatever and she was poor. She then collapsed and died from an embolism. If you’re not taken seriously use any resources you have – take someone with you who can speak for you if necessary. You have to be an insistent advocate for your own health.

  • leelah

    you have such a one track mind. how does the whole jenny jones post relate to this story? you’re accusing other people of being obsessed when really its you. you gave this woman one sentence and then gave a whole paragraph to your favorite topic. Then posted a long reply talking about how only black men experience discrimination based on looks. like your assumption is a proven fact. then right back to your favorite subject for two paragraphs. since you brought it up, how does jenny jones relate to this story?

  • Ricika

    God Bless that woman. What a shame and sorry disgrace.

  • Devan Townsend

    “While Wilkinson’s dismal diagnosis was shocking, but what’s worst…”

    I think you meant “what’s WORSE”.

  • Kam

    KINGS COUNTY HOSPITAL is all I needed to see to understand the situation. How this hospital remains open I do not know. Do not go to King’s County hospital if you can go to another hospital.

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