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.