Saturday, August 18, 2018


Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, is 88 years old and has met his fourth wife.  The bad news, the kids don’t like her.  

Here’s what we know from media reports; Dr. Aldrin has sued two of his (3) children and his former manager.  Two children, Andy and Jan, had asked a court to name them as guardians citing his loss of cognitive function and dementia. Warrior that he is, Colonel Aldrin (ret) came out fighting!  He sued the kids, claimed they had transferred monies from his foundation for their personal use and used his credit cards without his permission and sabotaged his love life.  He made an appearance on Good Morning America excoriating his children and accused them of exploiting the elderly.  

The  ousted manager, Christina Korp, states that “almost a year ago, some people began to exert undue influence on Buzz.  These individuals began to actively try to drive a wedge between Buzz, his children and me, for what I fear is their own benefit.”  Her  argument is that because he has dementia he is vulnerable to manipulation.

My argument is that the kids and manager he is suing are doing exactly the same thing.  This ‘fight’ is about who gets to manipulate Colonel Aldrin.  His estate is valued at approximately $12 million. The two children are paid by the Aldrin foundation, as was the former manager. 

Lisa LaBonte met Buzz Aldrin because of their shared interest in STEM education (Science, Technology, Electronics, Mathematics).   Apparently, the relationship has blossomed into something more.  One can speculate as to her motive but the same can be said for the kids and former manager.  Further, Ms. LaBonte works for a living and is not paid by the foundation.

All of this will be solved fairly soon as the “mental health’ tests have been administered and the Courts will review the three different opinions.  I’m only sad that a man who gave his life to service for our country (his children did not) has to defend his honor.  The children did nothing for the $12 million but now feel as though its theirs to protect.  I say, Buzz Aldrin’s life speaks for itself.  Good for him making a last stand – no matter what the outcome!

Full Article & Source:

West Virginia’s Entire Supreme Court Just Got Impeached

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
West Virginia's House of Delegates has impeached all four of the state's Supreme Court justices, who allegedly abused their authority and used taxpayer funds for personal gain.

Fourteen articles of impeachment were brought up against Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justices Allen Loughry, Robin Davis, and Elizabeth Walker of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. Eleven of those articles were officially adopted last night and this morning, putting the justices' fates in the hands of the state Senate. Davis has already retired from her post. Another former justice, Menis Ketchum, resigned last month and admitted to defrauding the state.

Of the four justices impeached this week, Loughry is probably in the most trouble. According to the articles of impeachment, he wasted more than $363,000 of taxpayer funds on office renovations, including a $32,000 couch. He's also accused of misusing government vehicles and computer equipment, taking a desk from his office home with him, and lying to the state's House Finance Committee when questioned about his alleged wrongdoing.

Loughry is facing something worse than just removal from office. In June, he was indicted on multiple counts of fraud. His case is somewhat ironic, considering that he's the author of a 2006 book about political corruption in West Virginia.

Davis, meanwhile, allegedly spent $500,000 to renovate her office. Workman and Walker were also accused of unnecessarily spending large amounts of state funds to remodel their offices ($111,000 and $131,000, respectively). But they were cleared, as those sums were considerably less than what Loughry and Davis allegedly spent.

The justices aren't just accused of overspending on themselves. The House of Delegates also approved impeachment articles charging Loughry, Workman, and Davis with overpaying senior status judges (who are retired but still preside over some cases) for their work.

Walker was the last of the justices to be impeached. The House said that she, along with her colleagues, failed "to provide or prepare reasonable and proper supervisory oversight" of the Supreme Court of Appeals and its "subordinate courts."

"This is indeed a sad day and certainly no cause for anyone to celebrate," Del. John Shott (R–27), chairman of the state's House Judiciary Committee, told The New York Times. "But it is our duty, and I think the public demands it."

There is also a significant timing issue at play with the impeachment proceedings and subsequent state Senate hearings. As NPR notes, West Virginia has until the end of today to set up a special election to replace any departing justices. If that deadline isn't met, Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, will be able to appoint judges to fill the open seats.

In announcing her retirement, Davis explained that she wanted West Virginians to "be afforded their constitutional right to elect my successor in November." State officials have already scheduled a special election to replace Ketchum.

Full Article & Source:
West Virginia’s Entire Supreme Court Just Got Impeached

Brunswick nurse charged with bilking elderly couple out of $274,000

Amy McLellan (right) and designer/build contractor Dick Campbell discuss the layout of a two-bedroom apartment in The McLellan, a residence for seniors 62 and older, in this October 2016 file photo.
BRUNSWICK, Maine — A former critical care nurse at Mid Coast Hospital and Central Maine Medical Center has been indicted on felony theft charges after police say she bilked an elderly couple out of $274,000 in an effort to finance a “boutique” senior housing complex in downtown Brunswick.

Amy McLellan, 61, of Brunswick was indicted last week by a Cumberland County grand jury on charges of Class B misuse of entrusted property of a vulnerable person more than $10,000 and Class B theft by unauthorized taking more than $10,000.

Since purchasing the building for just more than $1 million in August 2016, McLellan has renovated the former Skofield House nursing home — and original Brunswick Hospital — at the corner of Cumberland and Union streets into The McLellan, an upscale elderly living complex with on-site skilled nursing care.

In October 2017, the Brunswick Police Department executed a search warrant of McLellan’s unit at The McLellan and seized computers and records.

According to an Oct. 27, 2017, affidavit in support of that search warrant, Brunswick police Cmdr. Mark Waltz wrote that an employee of McLellan’s had reported to the state Department of Health and Human Services that they had seen on McLellan’s computer financial documents and text messages indicating that “McLellan now had about $470,000 of their money, and that they had taken her about $70,000 of that amount one day when she was on duty at CMMC.”

Waltz wrote that he learned from interviewing the alleged victims that they met McLellan while the husband, 89 at the time, was her patient at CMMC. McLellan allegedly visited him while he then stayed at several rehabilitation facilities in the Lewiston-Auburn area, and then at their Auburn home.

According to the affidavit, in April 2016, while the man was at Clover Manor in Auburn, he executed a general power of attorney naming McLellan as his agent.

His wife, who was 92 at the time, told Waltz that her husband had been “in love” with McLellan and that she had seen McLellan kiss him on the lips.

Waltz wrote that on April 28, 2016, McLellan drove the couple to their bank where the husband withdrew $200,000 and had a cashier’s check prepared, which McLellan took.

In December 2016, $74,000 allegedly was withdrawn from their account, and on Aug. 1, 2017, a check for $50,000 allegedly was made out to The McLellan, LLC by the husband, he wrote.

The alleged victim told Waltz his signature was on the check, but he didn’t make it out, “and that McLellan had been making out their checks. He also did not know why he had paid the money, nor did” his wife, Waltz wrote.
Waltz wrote that McLellan had taken approximately 60 percent of the couple’s net worth.

Waltz wrote that McLellan took out a mortgage from Norway Savings Bank for $1.6 million in August 2016. He alleged that she used the initial $200,000 from the victims as collateral for the mortgage.

In a text message allegedly found on the computer, McLellan told a contractor working on the building that the victim “cashed out savings bonds. He put them into his savings account that totals $202,000. He and I signed a form and had it notarized. I need to get the LLC formed before I can set up an account at nsb. I signed the commitment letter. They keep asking where the 200,000 is coming from and I keep saying it is a gift.”

According to Waltz, the McLellan website said the couples’ entrance fee upon moving in was supposed to be $50,000, so the August 2017 check for that amount may be legitimate.

“However, there is no apparent rationale for the $200,000 April 2016 and $74,000 December 2016 transfers to McLellan,” he wrote. “After the August 2017 payment of $50,000, the [alleged victims’] assets are only approximately $130,000. Even if the $50,000 payment is not counted, while serving as [the alleged victim’s] fiduciary, McLellan inducted the couple to transfer to her $274,000 of funds to which she was not entitled, which represented 60 percent of their total assets.

The couple, Waltz wrote, “were both clear … that the money was not a gift and they expected it to be repaid.”

“The [alleged victims] are vulnerable people,” Waltz wrote, noting that the man seemed to be “losing capacity” and was using a wheelchair. “They are of advanced age.”

In October 2016, McLellan told the Bangor Daily News that the project was “all about allowing people to live their lives to the fullest as they age, to show that life continues to grow and change in positive ways. I think I can bring the same energy and feeling to another setting.”

She said she had taken deposits on eight of the 18 apartments.

She said she had purchased the three-story building for just more than $1 million, far less than the $1.6 million asking price, and had spent “most of my life’s savings” on the project, intending to create small, assisted-living apartments for couples 62 and older.

She said she had named the project for her late father, William Arthur McLellan, a physician with deep family ties to Brunswick.

McLellan’s attorney, Kristine Hanly, did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday.

Full Article & Source:
Brunswick nurse charged with bilking elderly couple out of $274,000

Friday, August 17, 2018

Leave No Senior Behind

To: Jaye Martin, Executive Director Maine Legal Services for the Elderly

Dear Jaye,

I've given serious thought to what can be learned from this tragedy, what could have been done and what can be done. I respond in the spirit of working together to make sure this doesn't happen again. I'm sure you share that goal. But in order to look forward we should look backward to review the facts of my parents case.

On March 6, 2014, I wrote a detailed 5 page letter to Attorney General Janet Mills alerting her office to the barricading and exploitation of my Father, Robert L. Bailey, who was still alive at the time. You were copied on that letter as was Leanne Robins.

No one responded or called me after receipt of that letter. No one.Brian McMaster, AG Mills chief investigator, never called me or my sister. Instead, he sent a perfunctory letter stating there would be
no investigation and the matter was closed.

You state that LSE only takes inquiries from elderly victims directly and not referrals from family and friends who are reporting the exploitation of dependent elders. As we now know, victims like my
barricaded Father are not capable of making that call and wasn't allowed to by the exploiters. Many time the victims family is out of state and they need in-state advocates who can reach out to, visit and
meet-unmolested-with victims. Again, no one called us or would speak with us or my Father.

My Father, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia from 6 physicians at 5 separate medical facilities, was not allowed by his exploiters to make or receive a phone call, he was not allowed to receive visitors nor did he have access to (or the ability to use) any means of electronic communication. We now know the limited phone calls he had with family were all tape recorded and listened to. His mail was also intercepted and read before it got to him. In short, he had no capacity or ability to report the criminal exploitation that was swirling around him.

In December 2013, 3 months before I wrote to the Attorney General, my Father was evicted from our family home of 50 years in Kittery Point and put in a dark basement apartment in South Berwick. During this time his $2MM estate was being methodically vacuumed by rapacious lawyers and caregivers. The York County Probate Court was blessing all this activity with no supervision of the conservator or estate lawyers.

In a short 15 month period 95% of my parents estate was gone. As you now know, the Judge in our case, Robert Nadeau, has been disciplined, fined $15,000 and disbarred from the practice of law in Maine. While Robert Nadeau was instrumental in my Dad's exploitation via the Probate Court, those in a position to intervene repeatedly ignored the families pleas for help.

The exploiters who suffocated and barricaded my Fathers stole or converted $1.7MM in a breathtakingly short period of time. Meanwhile, any authority we pleaded with to intervene looked the other way. There was no shortage in the reporting of these crimes while they were taking place and while my Father was alive.

Worse, when our family hired their own forensic accountant and handwriting expert to expose the rampant forgery, debit card abuse and conversion the local police, DA and AG continued to look the other way and instead made up elaborate alibis like "authorized forgery". What did my parents do wrong to deserve this? What did our family do wrong in repeatedly reporting these crimes and getting repeatedly rebuffed? Is elder exploitation in Maine this easy? Yes, frankly, it is.

But more painful than the cash conversion was the systematic and ruthless plundering of heirlooms and contents of 90+ years of my parents life. Nothing was safe. College education funds worth $45,000 for their grandchildren were drained, $50,000 in jewelry and furs (carefully preserved and insured) are missing and every other family heirloom or memento of significance was ruthlessly discarded in dumpsters. Again, what did our family do to deserve this? Is this normal in Maine? Is this standard estate practice?

There are lessons to be learned from this sordid exploitation. Lessons our family has been painfully educated on. The first lesson is that families are on their own in Maine. Those sworn to protect the
vulnerable either don't have the tools or don't have the interest in stopping elder exploitation. We have repeatedly provided law enforcement and prosecutors evidence of grand larceny on a "silver platter" only to be ignored.

So from our perspective, elder exploitation in Maine is a crime that Maine authorities and advocates RUN AWAY FROM and not RUN TOWARDS. In short, they talk a big game in their yearly press releases and elder fraud "conferences and seminars" where folks handwring the lack of "resources" and need for "education". Our family has earned a PHD in elder exploitation and paid a dear price for it.

Elder exploitation is a complex crime that falls between the cracks of criminal and civil law with its murky definitions of "capacity" dependency and dementia. Skilled exploiters know that overwhelmed prosecutors and untrained law enforcement would prefer to redefine the obvious crimes in front of them as "civil matters" to be forced into probate or Superior courts which are the factories of exploitation.

The abuse inflicted on the elderly and their families, as you know, is a national scandal, with the plundering of estates by unscrupulous lawyers, judges and "home care" providers reported almost daily. Senator Collins has rightly brought transparency to this activity and gotten the DOJ engaged at the US attorney level.

But in light of the colossal failure to protect Robert Bailey, what policy changes should LSE institute to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again. More specifically, what have you and LSE learned from this sordid exploitation, Jaye? Is there another family today being ignored and rebuffed without the means or capability to stop the exploitation? Ironically, LSE and the Maine DHS regularly informs the public that the vast majority of elder exploitation in MAINE is NOT REPORTED. How ironic.

This crime was reported in living color to you and every law enforcement, prosecutor, elder advocate we could reach out, multiple times. This was done while Robert Bailey was alive. Follow up letters
to your office and many other were ignored as my Father lay defenseless with his estate methodically emptied of cash and family heirlooms. Every law enforcement officer and prosecutor-outside of Maine- who has seen the vast evidence we have shake their head in disbelief that Maine authorities and advocates did nothing.

What explanation can you proffer as to how this could happen in Maine? What policy changes is LSE going to make to be sure this doesn't happen again? Given you asked what could be done, I will recommend the following specific actions:

1). LSE needs to use this horrible exploitation as an instructional case study for elder exploitation advocates in Maine. The details and methods of barricading and conversion of assets through explosive legal billing, forgery, bank fraud were all deployed to drain the estate in a breathtakingly short period of time. LSE can acknowledge the mistakes made in this case, admit their and the governments role in ignoring these credible reports and join with the Bailey family to educate the public on what happened to Robert and Marjorie Bailey.

2). Acknowledge that victims are often unable to report exploitation. Insisting that intake victims have to approach LSE directly leaves people like my Father at the mercy of the exploiters. When a credible family member or friend reports exploitation and has detailed evidence LSE needs to act on it and help the family report the crime and begin the prosecution of the guilty. LSE needs to immediately amend that policy.

3). LSE can sponsor with the Bailey family legislation in Maine that would make it a crime to barricade a dependent elder who's operating with diminished capacity. Maine can follow the lead of other states in making the systematic barricading of the elderly from their family and friends a crime. I have the text of the bills passed in other states and on the heals of LD 527 law LSE can co-sponsor this with the Bailey family. It can be called the Robert Bailey anti-barricading bill.

Thank you for your time in responding and asking what LSE could have done differently. I don't expect you or your colleagues to agree with every point but can assure you that my Father's death and destruction of his estate at the hands of these exploiters will not be in vain. Everyone in Maine-and New England for that matter-will know my parents and what happened to them. People need to know so they can stop it from happening in their family.

I would prefer to walk forward together with your organization but if not our family will move forward and continue to systematically expose all those who enabled this horrible crime. My parents were Maine residents and taxpayers for 50 years. They minded their own business, were good neighbors and loving parents and grandparents. Their 90 year life and legacy was destroyed in a little more than a year. My parents deserve this justice.

~Frederick J. Bailey

CNN, Mayo Clinic at war over report on teen who 'broke out of' esteemed hospital

Mayo Clinic accused CNN of knowingly publishing a story that lacked “clarification and context.”

CNN and the esteemed Mayo Clinic are at war after the hospital disputed a story and accused the news organization of knowingly withholding context and clarification – but CNN is standing by its reporting.

CNN published a series this week headlined, “Escape from the Mayo Clinic,” about parents who allegedly helped their teen daughter break out of the famed hospital because they were unhappy with the care being provided. The teenager, Alyssa Gilderhus, suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm on Christmas morning in 2016, and needed emergency surgery but eventually grew tired of the Mayo Clinic’s rehab facilities.

CNN reported that Gilderhus’ mother was kicked out of the Mayo Clinic by a physician after she repeatedly complained about the hospital. The report claims Gilderhus’ family was eventually barred from staying at overnight, that the hospital wanted to gain guardianship of the Minnesota teen and that requests to switch infirmaries were ignored – so the family broke her out of the Mayo Clinic after duping hospital officials. The prison-style escape was captured on video by Gilderhus’ family.

The Mayo Clinic issued a scathing statement in response to CNN’s story, declaring that safety is a top priority and “is at the forefront of the care we deliver to each patient.”

“We are unwavering in our dedication to do what is best for every patient, every time. This patient’s case was no exception,” the clinic’s statement said. “Following a thorough and careful review of the care in question, we have determined that the version of events provided by certain patient family members to CNN are not supported by the facts nor do they track with the direct observations of numerous other providers on the patient’s care team.”

The Mayo Clinic said it conducted an internal review that “determined that the care team’s actions were true to Mayo Clinic’s primary value that the patient’s needs come first.” The clinic said it will not discuss specific patients but “provided life-saving care” for the subject of CNN’s report.

“This story lacks further clarification and context that CNN knew but chose not to use,” the statement said.

CNN published a detailed account of how it claims the story was reported.

CNN said the story is “based on interviews with Alyssa and members of her family, a family friend, law enforcement officials and a former member of a Mayo Clinic board, as well as documents including law enforcement records and Alyssa's medical records.”

“While reporting this story, the authors had multiple conversations over many months with Ginger Plumbo, a spokeswoman for the Mayo Clinic. The authors also met with Plumbo and four senior Mayo officials on the condition that the information provided would be off the record,” CNN wrote.

According to CNN, Plumbo told the reporters that Mayo staffers consented to the off-the-record meeting with hopes that the news organization would reconsider its decision to run the story about Gilderhus’ escape.

CNN said that Plumbo initially said Mayo officials would answer the news outlet's questions on the record if Gilderhus signed a consent form – which she signed. However, CNN said the Mayo Clinic then declined to answer questions and provided a statement instead.

"Following careful review of the situation in question, we have determined that the version of events provided by certain patient family members to CNN are not supported by the facts nor do they track with the direct observations of numerous others who were involved. We feel we have provided CNN with more than ample information to support our findings and are deeply disappointed that the producers have chosen to pursue a false story based on a pre-determined narrative,” the Mayo Clinic told CNN. “We will not address these questionable allegations or publicly share the facts of this complex situation, because we do not believe it's in the best interest of the patient and the family.”

CNN said that prior to the Mayo Clinic issuing the statement above, Plumbo provided a separate comment about Gilderhus’s mother being banned from the hospital.

"Our care teams act in the best interests of our patients. As a general practice, this includes sharing information with family members and facilitating family visits and interactions with patients and their care providers when the patient is in our care. However, in situations where care may be compromised or the safety and security of our staff are potentially at risk, the family members' ability to be present in the hospital may be restricted," Plumbo reportedly told CNN.

Gilderhus, who is now 20, graduated from Martin County West High School and will be a freshman at Southwest Minnesota State University in September, according to CNN. She was initially given only a two percent chance of surviving.

The Mayo Clinic did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment, pointing Fox News to the statement on its website. CNN did not respond to a request for comment.

Full Article & Source:
CNN, Mayo Clinic at war over report on teen who 'broke out of' esteemed hospital

See Also:
Escape from the Mayo Clinic: Teen accuses world-famous hospital of 'medical kidnapping'

Part 2 - Escape from the Mayo Clinic: Parents break teen out of world-famous hospital

Indictment returned in case of elderly Augusta man found in meth home

A 16-count indictment was returned by the Richmond County grand jury Tuesday in the case of an 88-year-old man found in frail condition in a dirty house reeking of methamphetamine.

The indictment names Julia Squires Hunter, 16, John Arden Unger, 49, and Grace Marie McCarthy. Hunter, who was entrusted to care for the elderly Augusta man, is named in the most counts of exploitation and neglect of an elderly person as well as possession of methamphetamine and oxycodone.

Unger is named in two counts of exploitation and two counts of neglect as well as fraudulent use of the victim’s credit cards. McCarthy is named in only one count of exploitation.

Neighbors alerted a family member because of suspicions something wasn’t right at the home of the victim, a retired medical school professor. According to an earlier report in The Augusta Chronicle, Richmond County sheriff’s Investigator Carol Romero found the victim to be frail and having trouble breathing on Christmas Eve. The smell of cooking methamphetamine was strong, and the house was dirty, cluttered and in disarray. Rotting food was on the kitchen counters and a number of lights did not work.

Romero testified at a hearing in February that the victim’s family had the house tested for methamphetamine, and the results were so high the house was uninhabitable unless specially cleaned.

Full Article & Source:
Indictment returned in case of elderly Augusta man found in meth home

Thursday, August 16, 2018

All Judges Are Considerate, Measured, Conscientious, and Fair....Well...Almost All

In Houston, Texas, a judge has issued what amounts to a landmark ruling by permitting a wrongful death lawsuit against a probate judge, concerning an adult guardianship case, to proceed.

A woman sued the judge stating that her elderly mother, a ward of the state under guardianship, had suffered broken bones and a rapid decline, due to an order to discontinue her physical therapy thus causing her muscle problems to worsen and contributing to her malnutrition.

In addition, she claimed that the judge ignored requests for emergency relief, including a request made two days before the woman died. Clearly the judge did not exercise reasonable diligence in monitoring the guardians obligation to this woman.

This is a truly brave decision by Judge Rosenthal and can go a long way to help Texas with the problems they have been having with judges and guardianship cases.

A Probate Judge was admonished by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for referring to a proposed ward in a case before her as "Mr. Maggot" and "Maggot Man.” In April, the Texas Judicial Council admitted to the US Congress that nearly half of adult guardianship cases in the state are out of compliance with reporting requirements.

Texas Estates Code (TEC) specifically states that a judge is liable on a Judge's bond to those damaged if damage or loss results to a guardianship or ward because of the gross neglect of the judge to use reasonable diligence in the performance of the judge's duty under this subchapter.

“It creates a limited waiver of judicial immunity, allowing recovery for losses directly tied to the judge’s duties under the subchapter,” wrote Rosenthal in her decision.

Full Article and Source:
All Judges Are Considerate, Measured, Conscientious, and Fair....Well...Almost All

 See Also:
The EARN Project (Elder Abuse Reform Now)

The Unforgivable Truth

NASGA: Willie Jo Mills, TX Victim

Livingston County sues Judge Theresa Brennan for $25,000

Judge Theresa Brennan
Livingston County filed a civil lawsuit against Livingston County District Court Judge Theresa Brennan on Friday. 

The county alleges she '"routinely required the employees working under her supervision to perform personal tasks for her benefit for which said employees reported time worked and in fact were being paid by taxpayer funding." 

The county is seeking damages in excess of $25,000 "to compensate Plaintiff for the wages that Defendant wrongfully converted for her own use."

Accusations against Judge Brennan 

The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission accused Brennan of misconduct in June and added additional charges a few weeks later. Livingston County Chief Judge Miriam Cavanaugh removed Brennan's caseload on June 13, a day after the initial Michigan Tenure Commission complaint.

The county's lawsuit stated the Brennan "abused her authority to exploit and use the employees that she supervised as free labor to perform a myriad of personal tasks for her personal benefit and enrichment."

The lawsuit further stated that Court employees were told that "if they failed or refused to perform the personal tasks as assigned and directed by Defendant their employment would be in jeopardy."

Brennan is being sued in her individual capacity and not in her capacity as an elected official. 

Which judge will hear the case? 

The case will be heard in the Livingston County Circuit Court before Judge Michael Hatty.

The Judicial Tenure Commission accused Brennan of failing to disclose personal relationships involving cases before her and lying about the relationships during court proceedings and when questioned by the Judicial Tenure Commission. She also was accused of using staff for personal errands and to work on her election campaigns. 

The Judicial Tenure Commission can recommend discipline for judges to the Michigan Supreme Court, including suspension or termination. The proceedings are ongoing.

Full Article & Source:
Livingston County sues Judge Theresa Brennan for $25,000

Denton woman to receive health services after guardianship hearing

Margaret Danko, right, and her daughter Janis Danko giggle in their Denton home as they talk about Janis’ singing abilities.
A local resident with Down syndrome and a degenerative nerve disease may finally get the added care she needs, but it comes at a cost to her mother.

A Denton County probate court granted temporary guardianship of 44-year-old Janis Danko to Courtney Carey, the manager of Denton County MHMR’s Guardianship Program. Janis has several health problems including tardive dyskinesia, a nerve condition that diminishes control of the limbs.

She had lived with her 80-year-old mother, Margaret Danko, in their east Denton home, but now will reside in a local group home for people with disabilities. Carey said during her testimony that Danko will still be involved in Janis’ life, just not as the woman’s primary caregiver.

“We’ll take care of her, but we have to do it together,” Carey told Danko after the hearing.

In a July Denton Record-Chronicle story, Danko outlined her fight to get Janis into the Denton State Supported Living Center. The woman said Denton County MHMR hadn’t responded to multiple inquiries for help since February.

“MHMR has done nothing but argue and threaten,” Danko said in court on Thursday.

The agency, citing privacy laws, declined to comment for the July story. However, an employee refuted Danko’s claims in court.

MHMR employee Morgan Quinnelly said she and other employees met with Danko and Janis four times and had been involved with the family for the past seven months. On certain occasions, Danko got frustrated with the employees and told them to leave her house, Quinnelly said.

Virginia Hammerle, an attorney who was appointed by the court to represent Janis, noted that Danko has moved several times when she couldn’t get the services she wanted for Janis. Hammerle said Janis told her that she wanted to live in a group home with people her own age.

“Although I don’t believe Ms. Danko is intentionally acting against Janis’ best interests, I do believe the effect of her actions are not in Janis’ best interest,” Hammerle said.

Danko defended her decision to move and said her frustration stemmed from the convoluted process to get Janis into the State Supported Living Center.

“Yes, I’ve been a lot of places and you know what it was for? Janis,” she said.

MHMR officials said admission to the state living center requires approval from a probate judge and often is used as a last resort for people who can’t function in other settings. Byron Brown, the court investigator for the Danko’s guardianship case, said he believed Janis would do well in a less restrictive residential home.

Danko said she resisted giving any decision-making power over to MHMR, but Judge Bonnie Robison assured her that the agency would be under the court’s supervision.

“Everyone in this [court] room wants to help you and help Janis,” Robison said.

The court decision granted guardianship to the MHMR program for 60 days. A hearing has been set for September to appoint a permanent guardian. Danko’s neighbors said the woman has done well caring for her daughter, but realizes she has physical limitations because of her age.

“Whatever needs to take place should be a permanent solution, not a Band-Aid,” neighbor Caleb Lopez said. “I would start today, yesterday, six months ago when MHMR was first contacted.”

Full Article & Source:
Denton woman to receive health services after guardianship hearing

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Escape from the Mayo Clinic: Teen accuses world-famous hospital of 'medical kidnapping'

In a jaw-dropping moment caught on video, an 18-year-old high school senior rushes to escape from the hospital that saved her life and then, she says, held her captive.

At the entrance to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, the young woman's stepfather helps her out of a wheelchair and into the family car.

Staff. members come running toward him, yelling "No! No!" One of them grabs the young woman's arm.

"Get your hands off my daughter!" her stepfather yells.

The car speeds away, the stepfather and the patient inside, her mother at the wheel.

Mayo security calls 911.

"We have had a patient abduction," the security officer tells police, according to a transcript of the call.

'A cautionary tale'

The patient's name is Alyssa Gilderhus.

She and her family say she wasn't abducted from the Mayo Clinic in February 2017; rather, she escaped. They say the hospital was keeping her there against her will -- that Mayo "medically kidnapped" her.

Unhappy with the care she was receiving at Mayo, they say, they repeatedly asked for her to be transferred to another hospital. They say Mayo refused.

According to police, Mayo officials had a different plan for Alyssa: They had asked the county for assistance in "gaining guardianship of Alyssa," who was an adult.

A spokeswoman for the Mayo Clinic said hospital officials would be willing to answer CNN's questions if Alyssa signed a privacy release form giving them permission to discuss her case publicly with CNN. The spokeswoman, Ginger Plumbo, supplied that form to CNN.

Alyssa signed the form, but Plumbo declined to answer CNN's questions on the record. Instead, she provided a statement, which said in part, "We will not address these questionable allegations or publicly share the facts of this complex situation, because we do not believe it's in the best interest of the patient and the family. ... Our internal review determined that the care team's actions were true to Mayo Clinic's primary value that the patient's needs come first. We acted in a manner that honored that value for this patient and that also took into account the safety and well-being of the team caring for the patient."

This story is based on interviews with Alyssa and members of her family, a family friend, law enforcement officials and a former member of a Mayo Clinic board, as well as documents including law enforcement records and Alyssa's medical records.

By everyone's account, this is an unfortunate and devastating story about a bitter clash that went out of control -- a clash between a Minnesota farm family and one of the world's most revered hospitals.

"It's confusing to me why this went off the rails so horribly," said Richard Saver, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, who at CNN's request reviewed medical and legal documents that the family and law enforcement officials provided to CNN.

Art Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University School of Medicine, also reviewed the documents, and he agrees.

"This should never have happened," he said. "This is a cautionary tale."

A Christmas Day aneurysm

The relationship between Alyssa's family and the Mayo Clinic started off well.

On Christmas morning 2016, Alyssa settled in with a mug of hot chocolate to open her gifts. She was surrounded by her large family: her mother, Amber Engebretson, a stay-at-home mom; Duane Engebretson, her stepfather since she was 4 years old, who manages a construction company and the family's farms; and her five younger siblings, then 18 months to 11 years old.

They live in Sherburn, Minnesota, population just over 1,000 people, about 150 miles southwest of Minneapolis, on a farm with sheep, cows, horses and pigs.

Alyssa was thrilled with her first Christmas present: a pair of cowboy boots emblazoned with the emblem of the Future Farmers of America, her favorite club.

Then she went to the bathroom. Her parents heard screaming.

"Mom, I need you!" Alyssa yelled as she lay curled up on the floor, vomiting.

It was immediately obvious this was much more than just a stomach bug. Her left side was very weak, and she couldn't hear out of her left ear.

"You could see looking at her that she was petrified," her stepfather said.

He called an ambulance. A local hospital determined that Alyssa, who'd always been healthy, had a ruptured brain aneurysm: A blood vessel inside her brain had suddenly and unexpectedly burst.

Surgeons explained that her life was on the line. They drilled a hole in her skull to relieve the pressure on her brain.

A nurse gave her parents a bag of Alyssa's hair, which had been shaved off for the operation. Some people liked to have it, she said.

Amber and Duane cried as they considered that this bag of hair -- their daughter's long, beautiful hair -- might be all they had left if she died.

They begged to have her sent to the Mayo Clinic. The main campus for the world-renowned medical center was 85 miles away in Rochester, Minnesota.

"They're the best. People come from all over the world to go to Mayo," said Alyssa's mother, Amber Engebretson, who worked as a vehicle inspector for the Minnesota State Patrol before staying home to care for her family.

But Alyssa couldn't get to Mayo immediately. There was an ice storm. Ambulances couldn't drive, and helicopters couldn't fly.

The weather eventually broke, and about 7 p.m. -- about nine hours after the aneurysm -- Alyssa finally arrived by ambulance at Mayo headquarters in Rochester.

On Christmas night, surgeons gave her a 2% chance of living, her parents said. Doctors wrote in her medical record that her prognosis was "grim."

Her parents reached out on Facebook for prayers. They called their daughter the #Christmasmiraclegirl.

Alyssa lived up to that name. She survived, thanks to four brain surgeries over the next month. Her doctors were ecstatic.

"They were like, she's not supposed to be here. She beat the odds," her stepfather said.

"Mayo neurosurgeons saved her life," added her mother. "We'll be grateful to them forever."

On January 30, Alyssa was transferred from the neurology unit to the rehabilitation unit.

It should have been a happy turning point. But that's when the troubles began.

Tensions flare

Although all had gone smoothly on the neurology floor, the family got into conflicts with the rehab staff almost immediately.

First, doctors there wanted to take Alyssa off oxycodone, a powerful opioid painkiller that the neurology doctors had prescribed for pain after surgery. Her most recent surgery -- the fourth in one month -- had been just a few days before.

"She'd lay in bed with tears coming out of her eyes because she was in so much pain," her stepfather said.

Many medical authorities, including the Mayo Clinic's website, say opioids are critical for post-surgical pain management.

A week after Alyssa arrived on the rehabilitation floor, her mother shared her feelings on Facebook.

"[Alyssa's] and my frustration level was high and it seems that they just don't listen sometimes," Amber wrote on February 7.

More disputes arose. Her parents say their daughter's breathing tube was the wrong size, and they had to pester doctors to get it corrected. They also say the family -- not doctors -- discovered that she had a bladder infection. They say a social worker discussed private financial information within earshot of visiting friends and relatives.

Her parents asked for the social worker and a doctor to be replaced.

"We just need someone who will at least listen to us and hear us," Amber wrote on her Facebook page on February 20.

Alyssa's parents say that at their request, they had a meeting with her care team on February 21.

"I had two whiteboards filled up with questions left unanswered, tests left undone, and every other question we could think of," Amber wrote on her Facebook page that day.

Amber says that at one point during that meeting, she told the staff she felt like they "don't give a f***," later apologizing for her language. She also asked for a second doctor to stop taking care of their daughter.

"We took no crap and laid it all on the line. ... Because seriously what do we have to lose at this point," Amber wrote on Facebook that night.

Mayo kicks Mom out

On February 22, the day after that meeting, Amber got into a disagreement with a nursing aide and asked to have her removed from her daughter's care team. She was the fourth staffer the family had asked to be replaced in just three weeks.

That afternoon, Amber says, she was scheduled to have a meeting with the social worker -- the same one she'd asked to leave her daughter's care.

Amber had requested the meeting, and she says that as she approached the office at the appointed time, a man she'd never seen was standing in the office doorway. She said he saw her coming and went into the office and shut the door.

Amber listened through the door. She says that as she suspected, the man and the social worker were talking about her family.

"I proceeded to open the door and say, 'Since you're talking about my family, I think it's only appropriate that I would be here also, to be included in the conversation,' " she remembers.

She says the man puffed out his chest and stepped toward her, and she took a backward step into the hall. The man, who Amber later learned was a physician, demanded that she leave.

She says the man told her, "I run this whole rehab unit. Do you understand me?"

Amber describes the doctor as "intensely aggressive."

She replied to him, she says, with similar aggression and frustration: "I need to talk to you. Do you understand me?"

The doctor walked away.

CNN reached out to this doctor and other staff members involved in Alyssa's care but did not receive responses.

About an hour later, Alyssa's parents say, the same doctor, the social worker and a nurse approached the family. They were accompanied by three security guards.

"[The doctor] said to me, 'You are not allowed to participate in Alyssa's care. You are not allowed on Mayo property. You will be escorted off the premises right now,' " Amber remembers.

Amber and Duane say they asked why Amber was being kicked out but did not receive an answer.

Later, a social worker would tell police that "Amber interrupted a meeting because Amber was upset over the care Alyssa was receiving. Due to that incident, Amber was escorted off of [Mayo] property."

According to Alyssa's parents, the doctor told Duane that he could stay but that he would not be allowed to have any involvement in his stepdaughter's care.

The couple say they asked the doctor whether they could speak with a patient advocate.

"He said, 'There is no patient advocate,' and walked away," Amber said.

When asked about Amber's dismissal from the hospital, Mayo spokeswoman Plumbo sent CNN a statement.

"Our care teams act in the best interests of our patients. As a general practice, this includes sharing information with family members and facilitating family visits and interactions with patients and their care providers when the patient is in our care. However, in situations where care may be compromised or the safety and security of our staff are potentially at risk, the family members' ability to be present in the hospital may be restricted."

Plumbo did not elaborate on whether or how Amber compromised her daughter's care or placed staff at risk.

"We would never compromise her care," Amber said. "She's our daughter. We love her."

She also says she never put staff members at risk. "We would never do that -- ever," she said.

On February 23, the day after Amber was kicked out, she went on Facebook.

"PRAYER WARRIORS UNITE!!!! We need your help. ... Please READ THIS AND SHARE THIS POST in hopes it reaches the people or person who can help us," she wrote.

"I HAVE BEEN TOLD I AM NOT ALLOWED IN ALYSSA'S ROOM AND NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO HAVE ANY SAY OR PARTICIPATE IN HER [CARE]. ... I AM NOT ALLOWED TO SEE HER!! We have been given no reason why, no paperwork, and no explanations," she continued. "I never imagined something like this could happen in our world and a very hard situation already has been made even harder!!"

The response from one Facebook user led the family to conclude that they needed to get Alyssa out of Mayo, and fast.

'Basically a prisoner at Mayo'

Alyssa, who was legally an adult during her entire hospitalization, says that around this time, she started asking doctors and nurses to transfer her to another facility.

She says she never received a response.

"They were cruel to me," Alyssa said, adding that she wanted to get out of Mayo "as bad as possible."
On February 23, three weeks into her daughter's stay in rehab, Amber complained on Facebook, tagging Mayo.

"They refuse to let her go. ... We cannot transfer [Alyssa] out or get her discharged," she wrote. "No one has any say in [Alyssa's care] and she is basically a prisoner of Mayo."

Alyssa's stepfather and grandmother say they also asked to have her transferred out of Mayo.

"I asked two to three times a day, and it would go nowhere," Duane said.

"Duane said, 'This is ridiculous. We don't want her here; Alyssa doesn't want to be here; she doesn't feel safe here,' " her grandmother Aimee Olson remembers. "But there was no response."

Duane says he tried to talk to a senior doctor on the rehab staff about a transfer. It was the same doctor who had asked his wife to leave the hospital.

"He said 'I have nothing to say to you. This is a legal problem,' " Duane remembers. "I even asked him, 'can I speak to your supervisor, your boss,' and his exact words were 'I run this whole floor,' and [he] turned around and walked out of the room, and that was it.'

Duane says he called the Mayo Patient Experience office and in a 45-minute phone call described the family's grievances. He said the patient experience specialist told him he would be back in touch after getting Mayo's side of the story.

Olson, Alyssa's grandmother and Amber's mother, said she also tried to speak with the senior doctor but was told he wasn't available.

"She was truly being held captive," Olson said. "I would never believe a hospital could do that -- never in my wildest dreams."

The family and a friend say they were instructed by Mayo staff not to talk to Alyssa about her mother.

Two nurses were assigned to be with Alyssa, and they kept careful watch, according to visitors.

"It was like they were watching every move you made," said Joy Schmitt, Alyssa's boyfriend's mother, who visited frequently after Amber was asked to leave the hospital.

'They were taking over our daughter'

On February 21, the day before her mother was kicked out of the hospital, a Mayo psychiatrist examined Alyssa and found that she lacked the capacity to make her own medical decisions, according to a summary of her care that her doctors wrote after she left Mayo.

Around this time, a hospital social worker went to adult protection services in two counties to try to get those authorities to get guardianship over Alyssa, according to the police. If they had succeeded, she would have become a ward of the state.

Alyssa and her family say that they weren't told any of this as it was happening but that around this time, they started to feel that Mayo was isolating Alyssa.

On February 26, staffers confiscated Alyssa's cell phone, laptop and tablet after finding that she'd made a video for her mother, according to Alyssa and her family. They say Alyssa's visitors were also banned from bringing their devices into the hospital.

The same day, Mayo staffers said no one would be allowed to stay overnight with Alyssa, according to Duane and Amber's sister, April Chance, who attended a meeting with Alyssa's care team.

Duane says he asked the staff to reconsider. He said his stepdaughter had never spent the night alone in the hospital. But he says they refused.

"The doctors said they were doing this for Alyssa's own benefit," Duane said.

The family says the doctors also told them that visitors would no longer be allowed to attend Alyssa's treatment sessions, such as physical and occupational therapy.

"I said, 'We're her cheerleaders. We cheer her on,' " her aunt remembers. "And they said 'No, you're impeding her care.' "

She said the staff didn't elaborate on how they were impeding her care.

"They were restricting us little by little from even being with Alyssa. They were taking over our daughter," Duane said.

Mayo also pushed back Alyssa's discharge date, which was supposed to be February 27.

Meanwhile, her mother's following was growing on Facebook, with many users posting angry messages that tagged Mayo.

One woman sent Amber links to stories about a teenager named Justina Pelletier.

Articles in The Boston Globe and elsewhere described how in 2013, Pelletier, then 14 years old, was placed in state custody for nearly 16 months after Boston Children's Hospital accused her parents of interfering in her care. She spent much of that time in a psychiatric ward.

Amber says she spoke on the phone with Justina's parents, Linda and Lou Pelletier. She says they warned her there would be signs that the hospital was seeking guardianship for their daughter. They would keep a tight watch over her and limit her communications with her family.

Through their lawyer, John T. Martin, the Pelletiers confirmed that they had conversations with Amber.

A spokeswoman for Boston Children's Hospital told CNN that the hospital is "committed to the best interest of our patients' health and well-being" and declined to discuss the specifics of the case.

Amber sent a text to the woman who'd sent her the news articles.

"OMG I am SICK. This is what is happening," Amber wrote. "It rings lots and lots of bells. ... Omg ... I am so scared."

A Mayo board member steps in

Alyssa's parents reached out to a friend of a friend for help: Mark Gaalswyk, who at the time was a member of the board of directors for the Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont, Minnesota.

Gaalswyk emailed a Mayo Clinic vice president. He informed her of the situation and explained that CNN had contacted the family.

"Could you please please do what you can to get your arms around the [situation] immediately?!" he wrote. "Please get to the bottom of this quickly before it blows up even more."

But Gaalswyk's pull wasn't enough.

He says Mayo treated Alyssa "terribly."

"I'm probably the most pro-Mayo person who has walked the face of this earth," said Gaalswyk, who left the board January 1. "But this was a mess."

He said he thinks Amber probably "used words she shouldn't have" with hospital staff.

"I'm not saying that Amber is 100 percent in the right," he added, "but I know what Mayo did is not OK at all."

In its statement to CNN, the Mayo spokeswoman said that "Mayo Clinic is committed to the safety and wellbeing of all the patients we treat."

Feeling like they were running out of options, Alyssa's parents then enlisted the help of Karie Rego, an attorney and patient advocate they'd met on Facebook.

On February 27, Rego spoke on the phone with Joshua Murphy, Mayo's chief legal officer, and faxed him a letter urging Mayo to transfer Alyssa to another facility.

"Given what has happened here, an expedited transfer this coming week would be best for everyone," she wrote.

Rego says an attorney in Murphy's office called her later. She says that he told her he couldn't speak with her and that she never heard anything more from Mayo's legal department.

That night, Alyssa's parents thought about Justina Pelletier and the 16 months she spent in state custody.

They went online and printed a form for Alyssa to sign, saying she was leaving the hospital against medical advice.

But her parents didn't know how they would get her out. Two nurses were assigned to keep watch over her at all times.

They started to hatch a plan to get her out of Mayo the very next day.

Full Article & Source:
Escape from the Mayo Clinic: Teen accuses world-famous hospital of 'medical kidnapping'

Part 2 - Escape from the Mayo Clinic: Parents break teen out of world-famous hospital

Sherburn, Minnesota (CNN)One winter afternoon last year, Duane Engebretson sat in his stepdaughter's hospital room at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, trying to figure out how she could escape.

Alyssa Gilderhus, 18 and a senior in high school, had been a patient at Mayo for about two months, ever since having a ruptured brain aneurysm on Christmas Day.
Alyssa Gilderhus before her ruptured brain aneursym and hospitilization at the Mayo Clinic.
Alyssa Gilderhus before her ruptured brain aneursym and hospitilization at the Mayo Clinic.
Mayo neurosurgeons saved her life, but she and her parents were unhappy with the care she was receiving in the rehabilitation unit, and they say they repeatedly asked for her to be transferred.

But they say Mayo refused to let her transfer to another hospital, even after a lawyer wrote a letter asking Mayo to make the arrangements.

Alyssa and her family began to suspect that Mayo was trying to get a guardian appointed to make medical decisions for her. They were right: Hospital staffers would later tell police that they had gone to two county adult protection agencies to make guardianship arrangements.

Alyssa Gilderhus with her siblings at the Mayo Clinic.
Alyssa Gilderhus with her siblings at the Mayo Clinic.
Duane and his wife, Amber Engebretson, weren't sure how to get their daughter out of Mayo. Two nurses had been assigned to watch over her at all times.

But on February 28, 2017, an idea struck Duane as he sat in Alyssa's hospital room.

He looked at one of the nurses. She had been with them a few weeks before, when Alyssa's great-grandmother had come for a visit.

Betty Stalheim was 80. She'd just had knee surgery. She was fragile.

If he told the nurses that Grandma Betty wanted to visit but couldn't make it all the way upstairs to Alyssa's room, it might just sound believable, he figured.

He put his plan into action about 4 p.m., with his 9-year-old daughter, Allie, secretly videotaping with a small GoPro camera hidden in her hand. He told CNN he wanted the videotape to show that Alyssa had left the hospital willingly and that he hadn't been violent with staff, and to record actions taken by Mayo employees.

Duane told the nurses he wanted to take Alyssa downstairs to say hello to Grandma Betty in the lobby.

The video shows Duane pushing Alyssa in her wheelchair down the hospital hallway. She has a bandage on her neck where her breathing tube had been removed a few days before.

Two women in scrubs follow them.

When the group arrives in the lobby, there is no Grandma Betty.

Duane says he sees Grandma Betty's car at the entrance and walks out the hospital doors with the two staff members trailing behind him.

As he approaches the car, the front passenger door opens.

There is no Grandma Betty. She was never there. Instead, Alyssa's mother is in the driver's seat.

"Alyssa, we're going to go home, honey. Come on," Amber says to her daughter.

As Duane helps his stepdaughter out of the wheelchair and into the passenger seat, the two women in scrubs run toward her, and someone yells, "No!"

"Yes, she is! Yes, she is!" Duane and Amber yell back.

The video shows a hand grabbing Alyssa's arm as Duane helps her into the car. A nursing aide would later tell police she had tried to grab her.

"Get your hands off my daughter," Duane yells at the aide.

Duane closes the car door and gets in the back seat.

"Get out of here, Amber," he tells his wife. "Go, go, go, go, go, go!"

The car drives away from Mayo.

Recalling her escape some months later, Alyssa says it felt "phenomenal."

"It was like the biggest weight off my shoulders," she said.

'We have a patient abduction'

At 4:28 p.m., a Rochester Police dispatcher received a call from Mayo Clinic security.

"We have a patient abduction," the caller said.

An officer arrived on the scene 20 minutes later.

A Mayo social worker told him that Alyssa "cannot make decisions for herself" and that her mother couldn't care for her "because Amber has mental health issues."

The social worker also told police she "understood there was no formal diagnosis" for Amber.

Amber told CNN she has no history of mental illness and took offense to the social worker making such an unqualified pronouncement.

Alyssa Gilderhus as a child with her grandmother Betty Stalheim, mother, Amber Engebretson, and younger siblings.
Alyssa Gilderhus as a child with her grandmother Betty Stalheim, mother, Amber Engebretson, and younger siblings.
"It's absolutely absurd," Amber said. "She said it to the police department. She has no reasoning. She has no justification."

The social worker told the police she'd been working with adult protection services in two Minnesota counties "trying to get emergency guardianship" but had been unable to get court orders to do so.

An Olmsted County Adult Protective Services official told police that "Mayo was requesting [assistance] in gaining guardianship of Alyssa because they were concerned for the mother's mental health and the medical decisions that were being made for Alyssa."

But something didn't quite make sense to John Sherwin, captain of investigations for the Rochester Police Department.

If Alyssa couldn't make decisions for herself, as the social worker had said, and if she needed a legal guardian appointed for her, then who had been making decisions for her while she was in the hospital?

When police asked that question of Mayo staffers, Sherwin said, they replied that Alyssa had been making her own medical decisions.

"When doctors were consulting with her in regards to her medical care, they weren't doing so through a guardian or someone that had been appointed by the courts. It was in direct contact with the patient," Sherwin said.

He said it became clear to investigators that Alyssa "in fact could make decisions on her own" -- including the decision to leave the hospital against medical advice.

"There was no abduction. This was done under her own will," he said. "You had a patient that left the hospital under their own planning."

Though satisfied that Alyssa was capable of making her own decisions, Sherwin still was concerned about her health.

"What was relayed to us [by Mayo staff] was that the patient was in danger of dying if they were not in the hospital," Sherwin said.

Mayo sent the police an order for a 72-hour hold, which allows police to admit someone to a hospital emergency room against their will if they're a danger to themselves.

But first, the police had to find Alyssa.

Police search for Alyssa

Alyssa and her parents were on the run. They weren't answering their cell phones, and they weren't at home, either.

They later told CNN they figured the police would bring Alyssa to a hospital, and given the large number of Mayo facilities in Minnesota, there was a good chance that hospital would be a Mayo hospital.

"We felt that if [Mayo] got their hands on her, they would latch on and we wouldn't get her back again," Duane said.

Alyssa moments after she escaped from the Mayo Clinic with the help of her parents.
Alyssa moments after she escaped from the Mayo Clinic with the help of her parents.
Unable to find the family, the police pinged their cell phones. This pointed them to an Applebee's restaurant in Mankato, Minnesota, about 85 miles west of Rochester. Officers searched the restaurant and a nearby Five Guys but couldn't find Alyssa, according to a Mankato police report.

It turned out the ping was a bit off: The family was down the street at Walmart, purchasing a wheelchair, a walker and a syringe for Alyssa's feeding tube, which Duane says he'd been trained to use. They then checked into a nearby hotel.

While at the hotel, the family received a phone call from a Martin County sheriff's deputy. They say they told the deputy that their daughter was doing well, and they planned to bring her to a doctor the next day to get her checked.

The deputy said that wasn't good enough. He told them they were on their way to them, according to the family.

Alyssa and her parents scrambled and left the hotel.

It was now almost 9 p.m., and nearly five hours had passed since they'd left Mayo. The family was on the road with three police agencies -- Rochester, Mankato and Martin County -- on their heels.

As Alyssa's stepfather drove down the highway, a sheriff's deputy called, urging them to bring their daughter to a hospital right away. They told him they'd bring her to a hospital in Jackson, about 75 miles away.

But then, the family reconsidered. They'd chosen Jackson because it had a hospital that wasn't owned by Mayo. But they feared that the doctors there might transfer her to a Mayo facility.

After the calls from police, Alyssa's parents figured out that their phones were being pinged and took the batteries out.

They got off the highway and drove on gravel roads without a map.

"I just kept heading west. I knew I would run into South Dakota sooner or later," he said.

'This kid is in danger'

The next afternoon, March 1, one of Alyssa's doctors, a pediatric rehabilitation specialist at Mayo, spoke on the phone with Sherry Bush-Seim, a Rochester police investigator.

The doctor warned that Alyssa was in grave danger.

"The longer she's away, the higher likelihood that she's gonna get very, very sick," the physician said, according to a transcript of the conversation that police provided to CNN.

The day Alyssa left Mayo, that doctor and a colleague had written a discharge note.

"Alyssa's medical condition, medical status, cognition, and physical impairments require an ongoing inpatient level of medical care," the doctors wrote. "She was not medically or functionally safe to leave the hospital at the time of her removal from the hospital by her stepfather."

Alyssa was at risk for pneumonia, malnourishment, dehydration, aspiration, infection and falling, according to the note. She didn't have her medications with her, and her parents weren't trained on how to use her feeding tube, according to the discharge summary.

The doctor said Alyssa was probably "a ways from here by now" and requested a wider-scale search.

"[It's] incredibly frustrating that something isn't out nationally given that [this] family may be hopping from doctor to doctor," the doctor said.

"We wouldn't do that nationally," Bush-Seim responded. "That wouldn't be done."

Without a national search, the doctor said, "we're not gonna find her."

Bush-Seim assured the physician that the Rochester police had "done everything they possibly could to find her."

"There's got to be something more. This kid is in danger," Alyssa's doctor responded.

The police back off

But other doctors disagreed with the Mayo physician.

Less than 12 hours after leaving Mayo, she and her parents arrived at the emergency room for Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, a teaching hospital for the University of South Dakota.

They explained to Sanford doctors that she'd had an aneurysm and left Mayo against medical advice, according to medical records from that emergency room visit.

The Sanford doctors disagreed with the Mayo doctors on two crucial points.

Although Mayo doctors had insisted that Alyssa needed to be in the hospital, the Sanford doctors came to the opposite conclusion: They prescribed Alyssa medications, gave instructions for her to follow up with a doctor and told her she could go home.

Mayo had determined that Alyssa lacked the mental capacity to make her own decisions. The Sanford doctors again came to the opposite conclusion: They allowed her to make her own decisions and sign her own forms consenting to treatment.

When police learned that a hospital had cleared Alyssa to go home, they stepped aside.

"If a doctor at another facility says she's fine and comes up with a second opinion, that kind of takes the law out of it," said Chris Vasvick, a Martin County sheriff's deputy. "That's one doctor's opinion against another, and that doesn't have anything to do with law enforcement at all."

Sherwin, the Rochester detective, agreed.

"We didn't have any reason for the police to intervene," Sherwin said.

He added that Alyssa and her parents had done nothing illegal. No charges were filed against them.

"As parents, they were probably thinking that they were acting on her best interest. I think the same could be said for the doctors and staff at Mayo Clinic. I think that they also felt they were acting on her best interest," Sherwin said.

A few days after her visit to the Sanford emergency room, Alyssa and her parents went home.

A letter from Mayo was waiting for them, thanking Duane for getting in touch with the patient experience office.

The family found it ironic, given that it was dated March 1, the day after Alyssa left the hospital.

A few days later, another letter arrived from an administrator at Mayo, saying that it would not treat Alyssa or her parents.

"We have made this decision because of your actions which demonstrate a lack of trust and confidence in Mayo," the administrator wrote.

On Facebook, Amber shared that Alyssa's health was improving.

"This kid amazes me every day!! And we all could not be more proud!!" she wrote.

Alyssa Gilderhus with her parents months after they helped her escape from the Mayo Clinic.
Alyssa Gilderhus with her parents months after they helped her escape from the Mayo Clinic.

'Hospitals aren't prisons'

To understand the legal and ethical issues in Alyssa's case, CNN showed experts key documents, including law enforcement reports; a transcript of portions of CNN's interview with Sherwin, the detective at the Rochester Police Department; and summaries of her care written by doctors at Mayo and Sanford.

The experts emphasized that those documents don't tell the whole story; only a thorough reading of her full medical records and interviews with Mayo staff would provide a complete picture.

"You're only hearing one side," cautioned Dr. Chris Feudtner, a professor of pediatrics, medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

After reviewing the documents, the experts wondered why Mayo did not allow Alyssa, who was 18 and legally an adult, to leave the hospital when she made clear that she wanted to be transferred, according to the family.

They said that typically, adult patients have the right to leave the hospital against medical advice, and they can leave without signing any paperwork.

"Hospitals aren't prisons. They can't hold you there against your will," said George Annas, an attorney and director of the Center for Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights at the Boston University School of Public Health.

But Alyssa's doctors say she wasn't a typical patient.

"Due to the severity of her brain injury, she does not have the capacity to make medical decisions," her doctors wrote in her records after she'd left the hospital.

In that report, the doctors specified that assessments in the last week of her hospital stay showed that she lacked "the capacity to decide to sign releases of information, make pain medication dose changes, and make disposition decisions. This includes signing paperwork agreeing to leave the hospital against medical advice."

That hadn't jibed with the captain of investigations for the Rochester police. Sherwin said it didn't make sense that Mayo staffers told police Alyssa had been making her own decisions, yet in the discharge note, they stated she wasn't capable of making her own decisions.

It didn't jibe with the experts, either.

"They can't eat their cake and have it, too," said Feudtner, the medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Even if Alyssa truly did lack the capacity to make her own medical decisions, the experts had questions about Mayo's efforts to obtain emergency guardianship for Alyssa.

Brian Smith, the Rochester police officer who responded to Mayo's 911 call the day Alyssa left Mayo, said a Mayo social worker told him she'd been working for a week or two to get a Minnesota county to take guardianship over Alyssa.

"The county would have guardianship over her and would make decisions for her," he told CNN.

If that happened, Alyssa most likely would have stayed at Mayo, as she was already receiving treatment there, Smith said.

Bush-Seim, the Rochester police investigator, spoke with an official at one of the county adult protection agencies. She said it was also her understanding that Mayo wanted the county to take guardianship of Alyssa, or that perhaps Mayo itself wanted to directly take guardianship of her.

The legal experts said they were not surprised that Mayo was unable to get court orders for such guardianship arrangements. It's a drastic and highly unusual step for a county or a hospital to take guardianship over a patient, they said, rather than have a family member become the patient's surrogate decision-maker.

Robert McLeod, a Minneapolis attorney who helped the state legislature draft its guardianship laws, did not review the documents pertaining to Alyssa, as he did not want to comment on any specific case.

He said that before appointing a county or a hospital as a legal guardian, a judge would ask why a family member or close friend hadn't been selected as a surrogate.

"From my 25 years of experience, a judge is going to say, 'why isn't the family the first and best choice here?' and it had better be a good reason," said McLeod, an adjunct professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Other experts agreed.

Saver, the professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, said that in his four years working in the general counsel's office at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Health System, he doesn't once remember the hospital seeking guardianship for a patient who had a responsible relative or friend who could act as surrogates.

"It's thought of as kind of the atom bomb remedy," Saver said. "I'm a little flummoxed what to make of this. They had family members on the scene to look to."

Alyssa said her biological father, Jason Gilderhus, told her that Mayo asked him to become her guardian. He did not become her guardian and did not respond to CNN's attempts to reach him.

Even if Mayo had concerns about Alyssa's mother and her biological father didn't work out, there were other friends and relatives to turn to, such as her stepfather, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt or boyfriend's mother.

"It's so baffling why they didn't try to designate a surrogate before trying to get a guardian," added Dr. R. Gregory Cochran, a physician and lawyer and associate director of the Health Policy and Law program at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

Another feature of Alyssa's case also surprised the experts.

Caplan, the NYU bioethicist, said that in complicated and contentious cases like this one, doctors typically reach out to their hospital's ethics committee for help.

An ethics committee would listen to the doctors, other staff members, the patient and the family to try to resolve the conflict.

The family says no one ever mentioned an ethics committee to them, and there's no mention of an ethics committee consult in the discharge summary in Alyssa's medical records.

Annas, the lawyer at Boston University, agreed that an ethics committee consultation would have been an obvious and important way to help resolve the dispute before it spun out of control.

"Disputes between families and hospital staff happen all the time, and they can either escalate or de-escalate," Annas said. "An ethics consult can help sort out the issues so they de-escalate."

The experts said they were disappointed that in Alyssa's case, the conflict escalated.

"I was shocked to see that parents had to pull a fast one to get their daughter out of the hospital," said Cochran, of the University of California.

"I felt sad," said Feudtner, the ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania. "Viewed in its entirety, this did not go well for anybody who was involved."

Gaalswyk, the former Mayo board member, said he hopes the hospital learns something.

"I hope that someone somewhere will look at what happened in this unfortunate case and improve both our Mayo employee's actions and patient systems so that it not need happen again to any other patient at Mayo," he wrote a Mayo vice president after Alyssa left the hospital. "The situation need not get out of hand like it did."

Being 'held hostage in an American hospital'

While the details of Alyssa's case are extraordinary -- the Grandma Betty trick, the escape from the hospital with police on their heels -- the core of her story is not uncommon in many ways, according to patient advocates.

Dr. Julia Hallisy, founder of the Empowered Patient Coalition, says families often tell her that a hospital won't allow their loved one to transfer to another facility. Often, they're afraid to say anything publicly or on social media.

"You sound like a crazy person -- that your family member was held hostage in an American hospital," she said. "People can't believe that would happen. It's like the stuff of a science fiction story."

Kristen Spyker said it happened to her family.

When Spyker's son was born with a rare heart defect, she says she told doctors at the Ohio hospital where he was born that she wanted him to have a surgical repair at a hospital with a larger pediatric heart program.

She said the heart surgeon at the first hospital refused to send her son's medical records to other hospitals. She also says a surgeon resisted her efforts to transfer her newborn son to another hospital to get a second opinion on what surgery he should have for a rare heart defect.

"The surgeon said, 'This is my patient. This is my show. I'm the boss, and I say what happens,' " she said.

She said a social worker, accompanied by hospital security guards, then came into her son's hospital room and said she was worried that Spyker had postpartum depression that was affecting her ability to make decisions for her son's care.

Spyker said the hospital discharged her son only after she threatened legal action.

Her son then had a successful procedure at another hospital -- a different procedure than the one recommended by the first doctor.

When she told her story on Facebook, Spyker said, other parents shared similar stories.

"It was parent after parent after parent saying 'this happened to us,'" she said. "They had been so embarrassed to talk about it, but they felt freer when I said it happened to us."

Spyker was one of several people who spoke with Alyssa's parents last year while their daughter was at Mayo.

In a statement to CNN, the American Hospital Association addressed conflicts between families and hospitals.

"Communication between physicians and patients is extremely important in working to identify the best treatment," said Dr. Jay Bhatt, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the organization.

"Each patient is unique. It is for this reason that the majority of hospitals have patient advocates on staff to help patients and families navigate the care process. Hospitals recognize that patients are critical members of any care team and many are employing new strategies to ensure their voice and perspective is heard and accounted for."

When hospitals and families get into intense conflict, Hallisy, a dentist who practices in San Francisco, says human emotions can run amok. She says she saw it happen when her daughter, Katherine, was being treated for cancer.

"People think that doctors are immune to petty disagreements, but they're human beings, and sometimes ego and primitive emotions take over," she said.

She said that in Alyssa's case, she wonders whether a sensitive hospital staffer, perhaps a social worker, could have prevented the situation from becoming as contentious as it did.

She thinks back to her daughter, who died at age 10. She remembers the sadness and fear of having a very sick child, as well as the stress of taking care of her two other children and keeping her dental practice afloat while her daughter was in and out of the hospital.

She thinks about how Alyssa was near death and how her parents had five younger children 130 miles away, as well as farms and a family business to run.

"They were under incredible stress," Hallisy said. "They'd almost lost a child, and they had other responsibilities, too. You would think that someone at Mayo would be trained to see that."

The prom queen graduates

More than a year after leaving the Mayo Clinic, Alyssa, now 20, has belied her "grim prognosis."

The students of Martin County West High School crowned Alyssa Gilderhus prom queen.
The students of Martin County West High School crowned Alyssa Gilderhus prom queen.
Last year, she graduated from Martin County West High School, receiving a standing ovation from her class. She stayed out all night at her senior prom, where her classmates voted her prom queen. The local chapter of Future Farmers of America gave her the Star Farmer award.

Her feeding tube came out a few months after she left Mayo, and she can eat and speak normally now. She can walk on her own without any assistance. Last summer, she presented her fantail pigeons at the Minnesota State Fair and competed in the poultry princess competition.

She finished up her physical and speech therapy in March, about a year after leaving Mayo. She'll be a freshman at Southwest Minnesota State University in September.

Alyssa Gilderhus on her family's farm in Sherburn, Minnesota.
Alyssa Gilderhus on her family's farm in Sherburn, Minnesota.

Alyssa has not filed a lawsuit, but has engaged Martin, the lawyer who is also representing the Pelletier family.

Alyssa and her parents say they haven't recovered emotionally from what happened at Mayo. They say they still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, panicked about what would have happened if they hadn't snuck her out of the hospital.

"I think she would be [at the hospital] and nobody would be able to see her," her stepfather said.

They say Mayo still hasn't given them an explanation for why it was trying to arrange guardianship for Alyssa.

They think Mayo was trying to get guardianship in retaliation for questioning the staff, especially a senior physician.

"I think that the doctor I made mad wanted to make sure that I paid for it no matter what," her mother said.

She's told that's a pretty hefty accusation.

"We stand by it 100 percent," her stepfather said.

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