Boston Globe Magazine readers react to the story of Laura Levis
Readers are moved by a husband’s quest for answers after his wife sought help for an asthma attack, but couldn’t get into the hospital.
How and why Laura Levis died, alone and in the dark of a September night in 2016 near the doorstep of Somerville Hospital’s emergency department, is a devastating and shocking story of loss caused by a hospital’s negligence (“Losing Laura,” November 4). My heart goes out to her husband, Peter DeMarco, Laura’s parents, and her other family members and friends. We need legislative reform to hold such institutions accountable. There is almost nothing the legal system in Massachusetts can do to bring DeMarco any sense of justice. As a Massachusetts attorney, I can assure readers: This is what “tort reform” does — shields negligent organizations from civil liability for their negligence. And it shouldn’t be expanded — it should be eliminated.
William D. Kickham
I never knew how archaic some of our lifesaving services are. I made it to the end [of the article], but I kind of broke during the description of the one year mark. Peter made it to her, [to the spot where she collapsed], but a year late. My heart has never hurt so badly for someone I didn’t know and knew nothing about prior. I can’t even begin to imagine his pain.
Jenna Leigh Vallett
Mooresville, North Carolina
Never before, in 72 years of life, have I wept profusely while reading anything. Never. The confluence of errors that caused Laura’s death comprise a tragedy that rises to a level of the most horrific in human understanding. May Peter and Laura’s family continue to heal, and may all medical personnel act with keen knowledge, skill, and compassion always.
Mary C. Madden
East Greenwich, Rhode Island
I read DeMarco’s account of his losing Laura and have not been able to get it out of my mind. My heart breaks for him. The fact that they had been living separately, that tore me up. I feel profound admiration for him for not divulging Nurse X’s name; that speaks to his character. I’m not sure I could have done the same, had I been in his place.
I work in health care and see the many places where it is too easy to make mistakes and let people in need fall through the cracks. In a society that depends on technology for everything that we do, health care is sadly too far behind and unlikely to catch up. And the overworked people in a system that spends too much due to the dysfunctional way that it has been structured become unable to consistently do the humanitarian work that was the reason most of them went into the profession. No excuses will ever compensate for the loss of [DeMarco’s] wife; the system failed them both in so many ways.
I was incredibly touched by DeMarco’s story on the tragic death of his wife. Please let him know that he has done everything he can possibly do to honor Laura’s memory and that although it’s natural and normal to feel guilt after the death of a loved one, he has in reality nothing to feel guilty about. Please also encourage him, as you have done by publishing his heartfelt story, to continue writing. He has a talent for it, most likely it will be helpful to him as he moves on, and Laura would have wanted him to.
I am deeply moved by the compassion Peter showed toward Nurse X and the other emergency personnel whose mistakes led to Laura’s death. We live in a vindictive society in which people think nothing of ripping each other apart for their mistakes, including those that unintentionally cause harm. I hope that Nurse X and the other emergency personnel will accept the grace Peter has shown them and live their lives in Laura’s name, seeking to do good.
My heart aches for DeMarco. This was an incredibly well written piece and also extremely tragic. I hope all those involved take a minute to think about their actions and how they affect others to prevent another senseless tragedy. Let’s make sure Laura’s death was not in vain. Thanks for sharing this personal journey.
Abby De Molina
I read the Globe every day cover to cover. Never before have I read a piece that totally moved me. I can’t imagine what DeMarco must go through every day wondering if even one thing were different on that morning in Somerville if the outcome would have been different. May he find some solace in knowing that he did everything he could after Laura’s passing to bring these horrible missteps to light so that no one will ever have to die outside of a hospital after doing everything in their power to save themselves.
I think DeMarco should think about rekindling his writing career. The article was poetic in telling this incredible story about how Laura died, but it also describes loss, remorse, anger, incredulous injustice, and love. My hope is that one day he can find peace to quiet his aching heart.
My deepest sympathy to DeMarco and my thanks to him for the moving article about his beloved Laura’s life and death. He has sounded the alarm for readers to check out what systems and protocols are in place in our communities should we, our loved ones, or neighbors need emergency medical care.
What a chilling and frightful story written by DeMarco about losing his wife tragically. He is an inspiration for writing such a painful story and warning other hospitals to improve their safety. May he find peace in the name of his beautiful wife.
Kim Richards Harvey
Levis sounds like she must have been an amazing woman — strong, determined, beautiful. I just want DeMarco to know that because of his story, she will live on in those of us who got to know her and her spirit through his words. His story has given her another kind of immortality, a thought I hope brings him some comfort.
I have been a nurse in a major Boston hospital for 25 years. The shock of hearing the details of Laura’s death saddens and infuriates me. DeMarco’s story is a reminder to all of us who accept the sacred duty to care for others, of exactly what is at stake. The number of times “if only” happened is painful to read. Her story lives with me as I practice nursing every day.
What a great, sad, and informative article. It definitely touched home as I have a daughter who is asthmatic as well as allergic to peanuts. A few times she has had a reaction and went off on her own to get her medicine from a car, or walking from a neighbor’s back to our house. I constantly remind her to 1) Have her medicine with her at all times, and 2) To not go off alone when she is having a reaction or attack. Hopefully this article helps her and others to understand the severe risks.
“Losing Laura” was the most moving, horrifying article that I have ever read. While I know DeMarco gave up writing professionally, his writing was gut-wrenchingly raw. He has such a gift. I hope he can find it to write professionally again.
Susan Hunter Erickson
Shame on Cambridge Health Alliance for not publicly apologizing until two years after Laura’s death, not until after this story was so visibly published. While there were many mistakes the night of Laura’s death, the lack of effort and humanity by key individuals to go the extra mile for a woman on the brink of death was tragic and a reminder to all of us to not be complacent when there are signs of trouble.
DeMarco’s words all came from the depths of his heart. There are so many problems with our health care system, but one that can be resolved without spending one extra penny is reminding health care professionals at all levels to show a genuine desire to care.