After This Man Lost His Wife, He Had A Powerful Message For The Medics Who Treated Her

Image: Facebook/Peter DeMarco

Pete DeMarco rushes into the hospital emergency room, looking for his wife who has suffered a massive asthma attack. But strangely enough, Laura Levis has not made it there. The husband then learns that she’d collapsed in the street outside, and it took a “long time” to find her. Tragically, as a result, he will later watch the love of his life die.

Image: Facebook/Peter DeMarco

Confused, angry and sad, DeMarco pours his heart into a letter to the staff who cared for his wife. However, the whole thing seems incomprehensible. For Laura was only 34, fit and well, but now she had gone in a flash. Although it seems like terrible bad luck, more than 3,500 Americans go the same way every year.

Image: Facebook/Peter DeMarco

Now, Laura was a native of New York, growing up in Staten Island and attending prep school in Brooklyn. But she’d gained a degree in writing from Boston’s Emerson College, aiming to make a career in journalism. And she would do that without moving away from Massachusetts. In fact, her first job was at perhaps one of the best local papers in the U.S.

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Image: Facebook/Peter DeMarco

Yes, Laura was lucky enough to get a chance at The Boston Globe, where DeMarco worked, too. But she later moved on to Harvard Magazine as a digital editor. Meanwhile, DeMarco has since shifted away from the world of journalism, focusing on helping his dad with his snow plowing business.

Image: Facebook/Peter DeMarco

While at The Boston Globe, the pair did find their paths crossing in 2004. And Laura liked what she saw in the older journalist, plucking up the courage to ask him out on a date. However, DeMarco did raise an eyebrow – for he was a decade her senior. Still, he didn’t say no, and one thing would soon lead to another, with the couple becoming a fixture.

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Image: Facebook/Peter DeMarco

Having graduated from Columbia University with a journalism master’s, DeMarco started his career working for newspapers on the Massachusetts North Shore. They included The Salem News. However, he later moved on to the New York Daily News, where he covered 9/11. Still, it seemed like a move back home was on the cards.

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Yes, returning to Boston, DeMarco made his home in Somerville, MA. And it seemed a natural choice given that he had been born in nearby Lynnfield. At The Boston Globe, he turned his hand to just about everything that the paper had to offer. With his professional life full, Laura would fill the one hole in DeMarco’s life.

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Image: Facebook/Peter DeMarco

Soon the couple had become the best of friends, and ten years after first meeting, they decided to get hitched. Interestingly, they chose Bar Harbor in Maine for their wedding location. A much-loved spot for tourists, and set in the Acadia National Park, it appeared the ideal place for the ceremony.

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Image: Facebook/Laura Levis

Professionally, Laura’s life appeared to be going from strength to strength. For instance, in 2016 she was promoted to the higher echelons of Harvard University’s newspaper website The Harvard Gazette. In fact, she’d previously worked for Harvard Magazine. So perhaps it seemed that life could not get much better for her.

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Image: Facebook/Laura Levis

In her spare time, the 5 foot 2 inches tall journalist was committed to her fitness. For example, she’d work out almost daily, anything from hot yoga to hardcore spinning classes. But above all else, Laura loved weightlifting. And she didn’t let her short stature stop her from competing in powerlifting competitions.

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Weightlifting aside, Laura watched what she ate, keeping herself committed to a paleo diet, although iced coffee was an indulgence. Furthermore, she enjoyed listening to the Avett Brothers, watching a scary movie or rooting for her baseball team, the Yankees. But there were also hobbies Laura and DeMarco loved doing together.

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Image: Facebook/Laura Levis

Above all, the couple liked to hike. And they’d go far and wide together, even spending their honeymoon on a hiking excursion to Scotland in the U.K. Crucially, Laura’s asthma never got in the way of her love of physical exercise. For she’d simply take an inhaler everywhere she went.

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Image: Facebook/Laura Levis

Like most couples, Laura and DeMarco did not always see eye to eye. And in September 2016 they were in fact taking a break from one another. But they were still doing things together socially, despite living in different places. Sadly, this meant that on September 16 Laura was on her own when she started to have an asthma attack. Tragically for her, as we’ll later find out, it began slowly, at around 4:00 a.m.

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Image: Facebook/Laura Levis

Now, because Laura’s attacks came on slowly, she felt that she had time to go to the emergency room on foot. And it would probably have taken more time to wait for a cab, given the time of day. Furthermore, she felt no sense of hurry, having enough time to grab some gym clothes so she could do something afterwards.

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Usually, when Laura had an attack, DeMarco would drive her over to Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Hospital, which they favored. There, she’d get some combination of treatment with a steroid or a nebulizer. But with no car, Laura would be hiking up Spring Hill to Somerville Hospital, her suburb’s only center for care.

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Regrettably, DeMarco would later only get a confused story about what happened next. What was clear was that Levis had not gotten to the emergency room, but where she had ended up wasn’t clear. For she hadn’t even seemed all that clear herself when she rang 911, or so DeMarco was informed.

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However, a camera at the hospital first captured footage of Laura at 4:21 a.m. She had made it up the hill to the hospital. And there were two possible entrances to the facility, about a hundred feet apart from each other. What’s more, four benches were set on the sidewalk between the entrances, so that people could sit outside.

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Despite initial signage leading Levis towards the facility, there was nothing to clearly show her which entrance door to use. However, the right hand entrance seemed to be more well lit, which may be why the journalist selected it. And at first, it appeared that she had taken the right option as she tried to locate the emergency room.

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For she could clearly see the waiting area and a corridor that had a sign for check-in. All that she’d need to do was walk down it, and she’d be there. But there was just a sliding door in the way, which she went to push open. However, it stayed shut no matter how she tried to move it, and there was no one in sight to help.

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Now, it’s not clear whether Laura saw a note on the door saying the entrance was only there for ambulance access. In any case, she began to trudge across to the other door. However, the attack had grown stronger, and by the time she’d reached the third bench, she could no longer walk. Tragically, she was just 29 feet from the hospital door.

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So Laura quickly phoned 911. And she was concise and clear as she said, “I’m at Somerville Hospital. I’m having an asthma attack. I’m dying.” She explained her problem – and even that she was outside the emergency room to which she couldn’t get in. But she found herself shunted from one operator to another, and the new one needed her to say again what was going on. However, Laura couldn’t say any more.

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Therefore the operators, somewhat confused, tried to figure out where Laura was by using GPS to ping her phone. However, the 911 locator was not accurate, and it showed the journalist as being some distance from the hospital. Puzzled, the 911 police responder eventually sent help but to the other side of the facility, nowhere near the emergency entrance.

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By now, Laura had passed out, but there was still hope for her. For a charge nurse took a call from the 911 responder, and she set out to look for her. However, the nurse did not stray far enough from the hospital’s doors to see the stricken woman, who was lying on a bench just feet away.

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In fact, The Boston Globe revealed in November 2018 that the nurse didn’t ask the hospital’s security guards to look, too. Quoting from official records, it said that neither did the guards find out what was going on. For, if they had, they would’ve had the sense to go out and find Laura. But sadly, the nurse had not told them anything. In fact, she got back on the phone to the police to let them know that she’d had no joy.

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So when firefighters arrived ensite, they found no sign of Laura. And the dispatcher had not even mentioned Tower Street, where the emergency entrance could be found. In fact, it took the paramedics a “long time” to find the journalist. When they eventually did, the first responder immediately performed CPR as Laura had gone into cardiac arrest.

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After that, Laura Levis was taken to Cambridge Hospital, and for seven days, staff there cared for her. For perhaps there was an outside chance that she had been without oxygen briefly enough to recover. But ultimately there was nothing that they could do. After his wife had been taken for organ donation, DeMarco wrote a letter to the staff at the hospital.

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Surprisingly, he began by explaining how he had named all the staff to his family and friends: nurses, doctors, specialists, even cleaners. And when people had asked him, “How do you remember any of their names?,” he’d had a very simple answer. “How could I not?” he would respond.

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Image: Facebook/Peter DeMarco

What’s more, the writer described how the carers had treated Laura with dignity and kindness. For instance, they’d apologised to her before performing injections, even though she was unconscious at the time. Furthermore, they’d kept her decent when using a stethoscope, and covered her with a blanket when the room had gotten chilly.

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Image: Facebook/Laura Levis

Also, DeMarco praised the staff for the care that they’d shown Laura’s parents. For example, they’d patiently responded to all of the medical queries that had been put to them. And that was not an inconsiderable task, given that Laura’s father is himself a doctor. But their care had not ended at the parents.

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Image: Facebook/Peter DeMarco

No, because DeMarco himself recalled how he had been treated. For instance, they’d provided him with food and comfort, as well as a shoulder to cry on when he needed it. And they’d done what they could to let DeMarco stay close to his wife, too. Indeed, it appeared nothing was too much for the doting staff.

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Image: Facebook/Laura Levis

As DeMarco explained in the letter, “How many times did you hug me and console me when I fell to pieces, or ask about Laura’s life and the person she was, taking the time to look at her photos or read the things I’d written about her?” Touchingly, carers had even turned a blind eye when DeMarco smuggled in Cola, the couple’s cat, to say goodbye to Laura. What’s more, the hospital helped DeMarco give his wife a loving farewell.

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Yes, because the writer was allowed to assemble Laura’s friends together at the hospital. And he explained that in excess of 50 people gathered in her room to share songs and stories. As he went on to say in the letter, “It was the last great night of our marriage together, for both of us, and it wouldn’t have happened without your support.”

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Image: Facebook/Laura Levis

Then DeMarco shared the story of Laura’s last day, as they waited for organ donation surgery at the hospital. For you see, he had wanted to spend a few final moments alone with his wife, but farewellers kept intruding. After they left, an exhausted DeMarco asked the carers if he could bring his recliner close to Laura’s bed. But they went one better, moving Laura over to leave space for him so they could both be together.

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Image: Facebook/Laura Levis

As the writer went on to explain, “I nestled my body against hers. She looked so beautiful, and I told her so, stroking her hair and face… I… laid my head on her chest, feeling it rise and fall with each breath, her heartbeat in my ear. It was our last tender moment as a husband and a wife, and it was more natural and pure and comforting than anything I’ve ever felt. And then I fell asleep.”

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Image: Facebook/Peter DeMarco

Grateful, DeMarco signed off with thanks for the hour that he was able to spend next to his wife. He wrote, “I will remember that last hour together for the rest of my life. It was a gift beyond gifts, and I have Donna and Jen [the nurses] to thank for it. Really, I have all of you to thank for it.” However, the writer’s mood was about to change somewhat.

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Image: Facebook/Peter DeMarco

Astonishingly, despite spending a week at Cambridge Hospital, no one told DeMarco how Laura had been found outside the emergency room. This was despite both hospitals being owned by the same health care group Cambridge Health Alliance. Strikingly, even after the letter that he’d written had gone viral, no one informed him of the potential mishaps.

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Image: Facebook/Peter DeMarco

So when DeMarco found out, he knew that he needed to take action. Indeed, and a complaint that he filed with the state public health department led to a reprimand for Somerville hospital. And more was to come, as the federal department followed up with its own action. As a result, the facility ended up paying a settlement to compensate for its failures.

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Image: Facebook/Laura Levis

After the incident, the hospital put in place a big, lit-up sign to indicate where the emergency entrance is. And it changed the doors so that the one Laura had tried to open became the way in. More signage on the grounds now leads visitors to the right place. Furthermore, the dark spot where Laura suffered cardiac arrest is now illuminated at night.

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Image: Facebook/Peter DeMarco

At the time of writing, the Massachusetts legislature is considering a bill, known as “Laura’s Law,” which will introduce changes to hospitals. It demands that they “ensure safe patient access at all times to a hospital emergency room or department.” And the alterations would include signs, lighting and monitoring of locked doors at night.

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Image: Facebook/Laura Levis

Now, Laura Levis was not responsible for her own demise at all. In fact, she’d given responders crucial information which wasn’t used in the way it should’ve been. But she may have given herself a better chance had she talked to someone before setting off for the hospital. As asthma expert Dr. Sumita Khatri went on to warn all sufferers, “If an attack strikes when you are alone, let someone know. Because even if you reach the door of a hospital, you might not get in.”

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