Man who aided disoriented patient says "she's doing a lot better" - World Big News

Man who aided disoriented patient says “she’s doing a lot better”

In America


BALTIMORE — The man who said he came to the aid of a visibly disoriented woman discharged from a Baltimore hospital wearing only a gown and socks on a frigid winter’s night said Friday that she’s been reunited with her family. Imamu Baraka, a psychotherapist who has an office across the street from the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus, said he was so angry at the woman’s treatment that he decided to record Tuesday night’s events on cellphone video, fearing no one would believe him if he reported a patient being left at a bus stop like that on a cold January night.

“I knew that she was not supposed to be discharged from a hospital with no clothing on and no shoes,” he said Friday.

Baraka’s cellphone video shows several guards strolling back to the hospital after escorting the patient out wearing only a hospital gown and socks. He described temperatures in the 30s and a cold wind blowing at the woman’s hospital gown, exposing her to the elements.

Her street clothes were stuffed in plastic bags and dropped at an open-air bus stop. She appeared disoriented and distressed as she stumbled along the sidewalk, making keening vocalizations but unable to formulate any words.

Baraka said he’s been in regular contact with the 22-year-old woman’s mother, who is grateful for his intervention, since his video went viral. The video alerted the woman to the whereabouts of her daughter, who had been missing for two weeks, he said.

“She’s doing a lot better. She’s getting the treatment that she needs. She’s in the company of family. This is a good thing now, because now she is getting things she could not get before because of this video,” he said. 

Baraka said he was furious at the hospital security guards. Of those who brought her outdoors, he said: “I asked them three times, I asked them specifically, ‘Are you going to leave this lady out here like this?’ They kept walking.” 

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CBS News

He then went and tried to help the woman shelter in the bus stop while calling 911 for an ambulance. He said he asked the arriving ambulance crew where they would take her, and they replied “back to the hospital.”

That’s exactly where she went. That same night, she was put in a taxi and sent to a homeless shelter, according to Baraka.

Baraka questioned the judgment of the medical professionals who authorized her release, asserting that they failed to avoid doing preventable harm.

“They failed that simple test. They put her in an environment where she could have literally ended up dead because it was cold that night,” he said. 

“She’s in the heart of downtown Baltimore with no clothing on, vulnerable, fully exposed, literally, I became enraged,” Baraka said.

The mother of the woman has spoken out to correct misconceptions about her daughter. The mother, who asked to be identified only as Cheryl, said she wants to “correct the misinformation that’s out there” because her daughter, Rebecca, “was humiliated” by the incident. 

“There are people who are saying that my daughter is a drug addict, my daughter’s a prostitute, that she’s deaf,” Cheryl told CBS News. “She’s not deaf, not a prostitute, not a drug addict. My daughter has mental illness.” 

“My daughter was disposed of. She literally was disposed of. It’s disgusting, heartbreaking, horrifying,” Cheryl continued. “And if it’s all of those things for me, I want people to know how does Rebecca feel? This was done to her. She was on the street with her body exposed. There was no human dignity at all.”   

For the safety of her family, Cheryl chose not to disclose their last name to CBS News. 

According to Cheryl, Rebecca was diagnosed with mental illness — bipolar schizoaffective disorder — when she was 16 years old, and also has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. Rebecca lived in a residential youth program called Pathways from the time she turned 18 until Christmas Eve, when she was discharged for not taking her medication. 

“She has to be on meds, otherwise she has psychosis,” Cheryl said. “She will have, uh, a manic episode.”

Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of University of Maryland Medical Center, said at a news conference Thursday afternoon that there were no excuses for what happened.

“We believe firmly that we provided appropriate medical care to a patient who came to us in need, but where we absolutely failed, and where we own that failure, is in the demonstration of basic humanity and compassion as a patient was being discharged from our organization after having received that care,” he said.

When asked for any updates to the hospital’s internal review, spokeswoman Lisa Clough said the administration is continuing its investigation and are “working to ensure that such a situation does not happen again.”

“This includes re-examining our policies and procedures to better understand where the breakdown occurred regarding this patient’s discharge,” Clough said in a Friday email.

The hospital is cooperating with regulatory agencies such as Maryland’s Office of Health Care Quality, according to Clough.

Baraka said he has spoken twice to Suntha, who has publicly thanked him for shooting the video.

“We are going to talk again, in person, after all the bigness of this sort of calms down. Oh, but he will be held accountable fully, one way or another,” Baraka said.