RICHMOND HEIGHTS • National attention to the story of Anna Brown's death has overwhelmed her family and prompted St. Mary's Health Center officials to defend the actions workers took moments before the homeless woman was arrested for trespassing there.
"The staff at St. Mary's has heard the outrage being expressed about this tragic event," Kate Becker, president of SSM St. Mary's Health Center, said in a videotaped statement posted on the hospital's website Thursday.
Becker said in a statement to the Post-Dispatch that the hospital has received calls and messages from the public since the story ran, adding that some have been supportive too.
"We followed established medical guidelines and performed appropriate tests. Unfortunately, even with appropriate testing using sophisticated technology, blood clots can still be undetected in a small number of cases," the statement continued.
The Post-Dispatch published a report Sunday on its investigation into the Sept. 21 death of Brown, 29, just hours after Richmond Heights police arrested her for trespassing at St. Mary's.
The homeless mother of two had been to three hospitals within a week complaining of leg pain. Police escorted her out of St. Louis University Hospital. Richmond Heights police then arrested her hours later after she insisted she received inadequate care and refused to leave St. Mary's.
A St. Mary's doctor described Brown as exhibiting "no distress" during an examination Richmond Heights police requested before taking her to jail, according to a federal investigation into the hospital's conduct.
"My legs don't work!" Brown yelled as police wheeled her out of the hospital after the exam. Officers dragged her into the jail and left her on the floor of a jail cell, where she died.
About three hours after examining Brown, the same doctor pronounced her dead.
An autopsy revealed Brown had blood clots in her legs that had moved to and lodged in her lungs.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' investigation found St. Mary's was in compliance with federal emergency care laws that require hospitals to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay.
The investigation found that medical staff conducted an ultrasound of Brown's legs about 24 hours before she died, which did not reveal any clots. One nurse claimed she saw Brown put on her pants and stand.
"The sad reality is that emergency departments across the country are often a place of last resort for many people in our society who suffer from complex social problems that become medical issues when they are not addressed," Becker said. "It is unfortunate that it takes a tragic event like this to call attention to a crisis in our midst."
Experts say the condition Brown suffered, called deep vein thrombosis, can develop within hours.
Meanwhile, the experience of having her daughter's death in the news has left Dorothy Davis of Normandy once again unable to sleep or eat — as she was just after her daughter died.
"It's brought everything back up," she said. "And it's just so horrible to learn just how selfish people really are because nobody is admitting they did anything wrong in this."
The story has attracted attention this week from other media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. A Facebook page titled "Justice for Anna Brown," was created Tuesday and has about 12,000 followers.
A petition in support of health care for all Americans in honor of Brown has gotten more than 20,000 signatures.
Locally, radio talk shows have discussed Brown's case. The Rev. Larry Rice marched with a group of about 20 people Tuesday, including two of Brown's sisters, to the St. Louis County government complex, demanding that Brown's death be investigated for criminal misconduct and that the county mirror the city's efforts in offering shelters to the homeless.
"It is so amazing that so many people care," Davis said.
Rice, director of New Life Evangelistic Center, also is planning a march from the St. Louis County government complex to St. Mary's hospital next Friday in Brown's honor.