The coroner’s report for Lynn Spalding, a British woman who was admitted to San Fran Hospital last September and later died, has been released. In it, the medical examiner points to a chemical imbalance caused by chronic alcohol abuse as the probable cause of death.
San Fran Hospital Death
A bizarre disappearance
Ms. Spalding’s case caught the attention of national and international news outlets when she disappeared from her hospital room two days after being admitted. On September 19, 2013, Lynne Spalding arrived at San Fran Hospital suffering from weight loss, mental confusion and a urinary tract infection. As reported by The Guardian in an article about her autopsy, laboratory tests were consistent with alcohol-induced liver disease.
When she was admitted, Spalding’s mental capacity was consistent with delirium. Her bed was outfitted with an alarm that was supposed to sound anytime she left it. However, after repeated instances of the alarm going off, the hospital staff decided to disable it, and in its place, provide a round-the-clock human monitor for the patient.
It is not clear exactly what happened, but there was an obvious breach in the monitoring process. On the morning of September 21, Ms. Spalding again wandered away from her hospital bed, initially unnoticed. Shortly thereafter, the hospital staff realized she was missing. After searching to no avail, the authorities were contacted. Though both the sheriff’s office and the hospital personnel searched the facility, Ms. Spalding was not immediately located. In fact, weeks passed without any sign of the patient.
A startling stairway discovery
On October 8, a building engineer discovered Ms. Spalding’s body in a stairwell during a routine check. She was deceased, but did not appear to be the victim of foul play. This was later confirmed in the aforementioned coroner’s report, when death was ruled an accident, caused by “probable electrolyte imbalance with delirium” linked with chronic alcoholism.
Alcoholism and delirium
Delirium tremens is a term used to describe a severe form of alcohol withdrawal in which the body can experience changes in mental function and the central nervous system. These can include (but aren’t limited to) confusion, disorientation, fear, restlessness, shaking, seizures, muscle tremors, loss of appetite, heart palpitations and more.
Delirium tremens is most commonly seen as a withdrawal symptom among people who’ve had a heavy drinking habit for 10 years or more and suddenly stop drinking. According to the National Institutes of Health, it is considered a medical emergency that can lead to death.
Initial treatment can often warrant a hospital stay inclusive of serious medications to prevent complications. Treatment can include antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, central nervous system depressants, sedatives and more.
After recovering from the immediate symptoms, the NIH recommends lifelong alcohol abstinence in conjunction with counseling and support groups.
Getting help for addiction
If you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol, don’t wait until it’s too late. The Watershed hotline is open 24 hours a day: 1-800-861-1768.