When Erin Lang attended the Russell Health Centre on January 17, she expected help.
What the Oakburn resident received instead, she told The Brandon Sun, was the assumption she was a methamphetamine addict seeking drugs.
Now, she is at the end of her rope — she is feeling hopeless and scared.
Lang said, since moving to the Rural Municipality of Yellowhead eight years ago, the health-care system there has created issue after issue for herself and her family of five, including her eldest child Ethan, her twins Damon and Cameron, and her husband.
Prior treatment in Winnipeg was excellent, as was treatment in New Brunswick, where she lived before moving to Manitoba.
"Ever since I’ve moved out here it’s been one thing after the other with the medical system and it just gets progressively worse," she said, adding she thinks it’s because they aren’t rich and seem different from the locals.
Yet, when she was rushed to Brandon the next day for two surgeries over two days, she said the treatment was fantastic.
Lang has life-long illnesses — specifically, Crohn’s disease and colitis. To access life-saving medication, she has a port in her chest area. Ports are used for long-term delivery of IV medications. Lang doesn’t have vein access due to many years of illness.
The skin and muscle around her port was darkening and hurting, which is why she presented at the Russell facility.
"My port had a failure. My body was rejecting it," said Lang.
"The nurses started poking at my tattoos and poking at weird things. I’ve got cats, and had a few cat scratches on my hands. And they’re going, ‘Where did these come from? Where did these come from?’ Then they said they’re suspecting me of doing meth, a drug I have never done in my life. I’m a mother of three children, with disabilities. They basically kicked me out of the hospital," said Lang.
Additionally, the hospital ran a toxicology test without her consent, she said. That came back clean. Yet, hospital staff continued to treat her in the same way, as a drug addict. They sent her away, she said.
"Then I had to run back to that same hospital," said Lang.
"They had a drug specialist come in and see me. A doctor that specializes in seeking out people with addictive behaviors. And he comes in and he said, ‘It’s very odd, in your report, there’s nothing in your system.’"
Allegedly, Lang’s report stated she was drug-seeking, coming off of methamphetamine – even as her toxicology report indicated no such drug use.
That’s when, at 5 a.m., she was rushed to Brandon to receive the care she required because her port had completely failed by that point. She had two surgeries over two days at the Brandon Regional Health Centre, which then sent Lang back to the Russell facility to recuperate for a week. She was told she’d be able to go home after that week of rest.
"Which wasn’t the case," said Lang.
"I got sent back to Russell, and they threw a few Tylenol at me and basically kicked me out the next morning without discharge papers or information about stitch removal."
Lang came to the Sun because she’s scared. She isn’t receiving the care she requires.
She is also worried about her husband and children, who receive similar negative treatment. Another of several health-care-related incidents in the area involved her son. Lang’s husband, Jason, brought him to a doctor at Shoal Lake because his ears were bothering him. They called Child and Family Services.
"They made it out like our son was so disgusting," Lang said, adding that Child and Family Services found nothing of concern.
"It’s sickening. It’s horrible. I can’t trust taking my kids to the doctor because I don’t know what doctor I can trust out here. I feel like I can’t trust anybody," she said.
"I feel kind of hopeless. I’ve had to deal with a few health-care systems. Never have I experienced what I’ve experienced out here."
The Sun asked Prairie Mountain Health a series of questions related specifically to Lang’s experience, including: Under what circumstances would health centre staff consider it necessary to test someone presenting at hospital; what is the protocol for running toxicology tests on patients and does a patient’s consent need to be secured; and under what conditions would a PMH health centre call CFS.
"Prairie Mountain Health will not discuss any specific personal health information specific to any individual," stated chief executive officer Penny Gilson by email.
"In regards to your general questions, the clinical presentation of any client/patient will determine what the plan of care will be. This plan of care may involve diagnostic testing and a treatment plan. The plan of care is discussed with the client prior to diagnostic testing or treatment."
Gilson additionally stated Prairie Mountain Health works with health-care centres, clinics and partners across the region to ensure the provision of safe, quality care.
She suggested Lang should contact Prairie Mountain Health directly to discuss concerns.
Lang’s husband, Jason, said he did file a complaint related to their son’s treatment. It was disregarded, he said, adding he still doesn’t understand what happened in that situation with his son.
The Sun learned from Jason late Friday afternoon that Lang is back in hospital in Brandon. Her new port is failing, he said.
As he tells it, theirs is a story of two people who complement each other, who built a life together, after years of difficulty.
"We kind of created our little family from there," said Jason.
Watching his wife suffer over the past few weeks has left him worried and distressed.
» Michele LeTourneau covers Indigenous matters for The Brandon Sun under the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded program that supports the creation of original civic journalism.