Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Help Me Howard: I'm Not Dead
Going to the hospital is rarely a pleasant experience, but it was downright morbid for one man when they informed him, he'd already died a year ago. Pretty certain he hadn't passed away, he passed this strange problem to Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Angel Torres: "This is my little biscuit here, my big biscuit."
Angel has a pretty nice life, a good job and a growing family.
Angel Torres: "Two kids. Actually, I want five. I'm only starting right now."
But, technically, you are not looking at Angel Torres. His life ended.
Angel Torres: "I was pronounced dead."
It all began or ended when Angel was at Jackson Memorial Hospital to get his heart checked, and the nurse came in with his medical records.
Angel Torres: "She explained to me, you've been here back in 2008 for multiple gunshot wounds. It says it exactly. I've been pronounced dead because my vital signs was gone."
According to the records, Angel died after being shot in the face, chest and stomach.
Angel Torres: "I actually started touching myself like, I looked at my wife who was next to me, she jumped out, and she's like, you never told me you got shot. I'm like, I never got shot."
Obviously, it's a mistake. Angel is not dead and buried, so he looked at the his medical records and was stunned to see everything about him matched the dead guy.
Angel Torres: "Everything else, including from address, date of birth, name, middle name, everything completely, from head to toe, matches with my information."
That means the guy that was buried was not Angel Torres, but the living breathing Angel has to figure out how this happened.
Angel Torres: "I think it was just a screw up from Jackson. I think somebody was not paying attention to what they were doing. Somebody that works in the system did the wrong thing and put the wrong person."
But the problem may be bigger. When Angel started digging, he found the federal government thinks it has been sending an Angel Torres social security checks.
Angel Torres: "I had to write a letter and send it out to them, stating I don't receive a social security check."
The headaches go on and on. He can't convince the system that he is alive because some records show he died.
Angel Torres: "I actually feel insulted, downgraded."
He feels insulted, but he certainly doesn't feel dead.
Angel Torres: "Get my records straight."
But once you are declared dead, how can you come back to life, and who is responsible for all the problems that keep popping up, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "If it's just the hospital that has Angel listed as dead, it's easy. You show them you are alive, and they are required by law to correct it. Now, if a death certificate was filed with the state for Angel, then you contact the department of health, and they will bring you back to life."
When we contacted Jackson Memorial Hospital, they told us the patient who died was identified by fire rescue as Angel A. Torres.
The medical examiner's office then checked the fingerprints of the dead man and determined it was not Angel, but that information was never updated into Jackson Medical Records.
JMH apologized to Angel, and the state said no death certificate was ever filed for an Angel Torres, but he still has some things to worry about.
Howard Finkelstein: "It looks like someone stole Angel's identity. He now needs to contact the credit bureaus, his credit card companies, and in case the identity thief was wanted for crimes, contact your state attorney to get that cleared up. In these cases, confront the issues before they become a problem."
Angel is thankful he can put his brush with death behind him, that is, if his friends let him.
Angel Torres: "I went to my job, and when I told everybody I was pronounced dead, they just started laughing and thought it was a joke. They was like, wow, we have a zombie walking in here."
Patrick Fraser: "Now, if you find any of your records are wrong, the agency is required to fix it. Obviously, Angel was a victim of identity theft. He says he did lose an ID back in 2000 but never had any problems he was aware of. By the way, if you want to check on a birth or death certificate, just contact the state."
Stuck in a dead end dilemma? Need it buried and gone? Let us check the pulse of your problem and try to leave you alive and well.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Florida Department of Health
State of Florida Vital Records