THE LAST DAYS OF TAMMY GENTRY

THE SURGERY WAS SUPPOSED TO GIVE THE FORMER MARCH OF DIMES POSTER CHILD A LIFE. BUT A SERIES OF ERRORS INSTEAD LED TO HER DEATH.

While it's not uncommon for labs to analyze results for more than 24 hours in order to allow bacteria to grow, no one in Figgs' office sought the preliminary findings.

The results revealed that Tammy's infection was resistant to the antibiotic Figgs prescribed. They also showed the presence of a bacteria most commonly found in stools.

But Tammy would take the drug for three days. By Thursday, CIGNA finally told Luann that Tammy would need a new prescription.

That evening, when Luann went to change Tammy's wound dressing, a half a cup of pus drained out. "Her back exploded," her mother says. Luann took Tammy to the emergency room.

They arrived, she says, then waited for an authorization that would allow doctors to proceed. Doctors then surgically debrided the wound, an aggressive cleanup procedure. Within the next few weeks, Tammy would undergo several similar surgeries, all to clean the wound.

But it was too late. By the time Mayfield returned from Yugoslavia, Tammy was getting weaker and weaker. She eventually developed sepsis, a poisoning of the blood, and then ARDS, Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome.

All her major organs failed, and she had no chance to survive.
Her parents finally decided to pull the plug on her respirator on October 23, 1988.

Tammy's last words to her father were, "Take care of Mommy."
@rule:
@body:In the Gentrys' modest home in Glendale, in a dimly lighted living room where there are many memories of Tammy, Jerry and Luann Gentry reflect on what they've gone through. Luann's memory for detail, particularly concerning her only daughter, is remarkable: She recalls dates and information as if her daughter had died last week--not four and a half years ago.

Luann Gentry didn't accept her daughter's impending death until the day the hospital took Tammy off the respirator. Luann had grown used to doctors warning that her daughter wouldn't make it, and she couldn't believe her daughter would go this time.

"Tammy held on tight for life until the last day," Luann says. "I can't measure what I've lost. It felt like my heart was tore out."
In January 1989, CIGNA sent the Gentrys a letter canceling their insurance because, it read, Jerry Gentry had never gotten treatment for alcoholism. Noting that Fireman's Fund had terminated its contract with CIGNA a month earlier, anyway, the letter said, "CIGNA Healthplan considers Mr. Gentry ineligible for future membership.

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