Alberta Health investigating case of Anishinaabe woman who was sent home after stroke

‘They are good at saying the words, but it’s not being put into action,’ Valerie Sawdo says after apology.

The province of Alberta has launched an investigation into why an Anishinaabe woman who was feeling unwell, had slurred speech and had difficulty walking was sent home from several Edmonton hospitals.

Valerie Sawdo who is originally from Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation in Ontario, made her first trip to the hospital by ambulance on May

In total, Sawdo’s daughters say she made seven trips. At one point she was given a blood test that came back normal so she was released and told she was suffering from anxiety.

Her condition didn’t improve and says by mid-April she made two more trips to different hospitals.

“I made six or seven trips at four different emergency rooms,” Valerie Sawdo said.

Finally a CT scan was performed and it found that she was having a stroke and was admitted to hospital.

“It was confirmed that they had discharged her that morning after having a stroke. She actually had a stroke and they didn’t even test for it that morning,” said Valerie’s sister Kathleen. “So she, that window of time that you can catch with a stroke, and they can kind of reduce the amount of damage was totally missed.”

Valerie Sawdo said that she’s upset the only testing performed until that point was a bloodtest.

“It’s just frustrating that they never did anything but that. And I know that it’s a diagnostic tool, but the fact that they never went beyond that is frustrating as hell to me,” she said.

She said doctors told her she has two partially blocked arteries but that it’s too dangerous to operate on.

She said she has quit smoking and adjusted her diet.

Her sister Kathleen complained to Alberta Health Services about her sister’s treatment.

She said she believes it’s because her sister in Indigenous.

APTN News contacted Alberta Health Services and a spokesperson sent this statement.

“We know that trust is a significant barrier to First Nations, Metis and Inuit People accessing the healthcare system, and acknowledge that institutional lracism and stereotyping has kept people from getting the care they need,” said a statement from Alberta Health Services. 

“We also know that the relationship between AHS, First Nations, Metis and Inuit Albertans must continue to improve, and we have more work to do to show how committed we are to building, nurturing and improving those relationships in a good way.”

According the sisters, they had a conference call with the hospitals not long after.

“They were very apologetic. He could not explain why a CT was not done earlier. And they mean they know something is wrong,” Kathleen said. “They wouldn’t outright say it. They referred to my sister saying we’re sorry she had this experience, over and over again.”

Valerie hopes that apology might prevent other people from having the same as experience as her – but she said she’s not holding her breath.

“You hear those words so many times. They are good at saying the words, but it’s not being put into action,” she said.

Valerie Sawdo said she’s considering legal action.

Video Journalist / Edmonton

Chris Stewart has been in the media for 20 years. He has worked at CBC, Global and CTV as a news camera operator and editor. Chris joined APTN in 2012 in the Saskatoon Bureau and moved to APTN Edmonton bureau in 2015 as a Videojournalist.