Monday, July 9, 2012
Help Me Howard: Bad Lab Report?
How often do you or someone in your family get lab work done? It tells your doctor if there are any trouble areas. It told one woman her kidneys had failed, and she started the process of getting a kidney transplant. But what happened next is why she had to call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Monica Harvey is a real estate agent on Miami Beach.
Her business is healthy, and she doesn't feel bad either.
Patrick Fraser: "You look healthy."
Monica Harvey, Kidney Trouble?: "I feel great."
Felt great, till she went for her annual check-up and got her lab work back.
Monica Harvey, Kidney Trouble?: "And the test results showed that my GFR, which is my kidney function, was 14. Anything below 15 requires a kidney transplant."
GFR stands for Glomerular Filteration Rate, which determines how well your kidneys are working. According to the lab work, Monica's 14 rate meant her kidneys were not working at all.
Monica Harvey, Kidney Trouble?: "It was so shocking to me, because I am a really, really healthy person."
Monica then had to call her daughters.
Monica Harvey, Kidney Trouble?: "I am telling myself, 'I am not gonna cry, I am not gonna cry.' Of course they pick up. 'Hello?' They are like, 'What's wrong?' 'I need a kidney transplant.' They are crying. It was horrible."
The next step: See what could be done.
Monica Harvey, Kidney Trouble?: "My doctor sent me to a kidney specialist, who said I do indeed need a kidney transplant, and panic ensued. My kids flew in, and everybody was freaking out."
Monica does not have health insurance and the costs were piling up.
But her cousin in Chile is a kidney specialist, so she flew to Santiago to meet with her.
Monica Harvey, Kidney Trouble?: "When I had my tests done in Chile, it showed the same level of kidney function prior to the test that said I needed a kidney transplant."
The lab work in Chile showed her GFR at 29: Normal.
Monica Harvey, Kidney Trouble?: "I asked my cousin, the kidney specialist, 'Could my kidneys have gotten better since I had the last test?' She said, 'No, once you have kidney failure, they never get better.'"
Back in Miami, more medical visits and more lab work down, again everything was normal, seeming to indicate the original lab work was not right.
Monica Harvey, Kidney Trouble?: "It's good news, but it kinda pissed me off, if I can say that, because of all the commotion and drama that had happened in my life."
Good news, but Monica was stuck with $19,000 in expenses reacting to the original lab report.
Monica Harvey, Kidney Trouble?: "So I sent a letter to LabCorp, detailing everything that had happened, and their attorney said, 'Sorry, you are out of luck. We are not paying you anything.'"
Monica didn't believe the original lab work and doesn't want to accept a 'No' answer.
Monica Harvey, Kidney Trouble?: "I am not asking for any mental anguish or anxiety payments, nothing. I just want them to pay the bills that I incurred because of their error."
Well Howard, if a lab makes a mistake and the costs pile up, does the lab have to pay for that?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "Legally, this is easy. It's what the law calls 'negligence.' The lab made a mistake, and as a result, Monica had to spend a lot of money, and now they have to reimburse Monica for their mistake."
I first got in touch with LabCorp Headquarters in North Carolina in February, e-mailing or calling them weekly.
I may not be bright, but I am persistent.
Finally in April, I got this response that said in part, "LabCorp has corresponded directly with Ms. Harvey but cannot comment on the media story."
Then a few weeks later, Monica told me she could not talk to us either.
In the Help Me Howard world, that's a good thing.
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "When someone we are helping has to stop talking to us, that normally means they have settled. As a lawyer, my opinion is that Monica got a check and in return she agrees to not talk about it. It's good for both sides."
Monica can't talk to us now about the lab work, but in our original interview, she did tell us one thing that's good for everyone.
Monica Harvey, Kidney Trouble?: "If you get a bad test result, ask for it again."
Patrick Fraser: "Get a second opinion. Works for everything in life. And how did this lab work get messed up? We can't be certain, but the samples could have gotten mixed up, meaning someone whose lab work says their kidneys are fine may have kidney failure."
Needled and stuck by a situation that's sickened you? Ready to draw some conclusions? Sample us. We actually do transplants -- replace a problem with a solution -- and it's painless.
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