Cory Ashley still waiting for answers a year after his wife’s death in Alberta hospital

The day after his wife died in an Alberta hospital, Cory Ashley started looking for answers about why.

A year later, he’s still asking questions today but hasn’t gotten very far.

“I miss my wife. My wife was everything to me, she was everything to a lot of people and what they did was wrong,” he tells APTN News.

On Christmas morning in 2020, Lillian Vanasse, 40, originally from Sandy Bay First Nation in Manitoba, woke up not feeling well. Later that night she had difficulty breathing and was rushed by ambulance to the Hanna Medical Centre located about 220 km northeast of Calgary.

Alberta hospital
Cory and Lillian Ashley on their wedding day. Photo courtesy: Cory Ashley.

Ashley says after going about two hours, he requested hospital staff give her oxygen.

He says his wife never did receive oxygen during the time he was with her in the hospital.

Frustrated, he begins to record on his phone.

Nurses can be heard saying Lillian has admitted to taking too much methadone, a pain medication prescribed by her family doctor to treat abdominal pain.

She had increased her dosage and finished her prescription early as her pain worsened.

The hospital medical records note that Lillian came in with “influenza type symptoms.”

Ashley was escorted from the hospital by the RCMP who told him everything was under control.

He went home expecting to pick up his wife the next day.

A medical examiner told Cory that Lillian died of wet lung but to this day the cause of death still hasn’t been determined.

No one at either Alberta Health Services or the coroner service was made available to comment.

Read more about the medical notes and timeline of Lillian Vanasse’s death here:

Investigation underway into how Ojibway woman died while in care of Alberta hospital

Days after her death, Ashley filed a complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) in January 2021. The CPSA say they’ve included Indigenous investigators to review the complaint.

In a phone call with APTN, spokesperson Andrea Garland said CPSA could not comment on specifics, but stated in an email, “Part of this work has been looking at how we can do our part in improving Indigenous health and ensuring we stay accountable to our commitment to Truth and Reconciliation.”

“They’re showing respect to my wife, her culture and her ways,” Ashley says, “It’s a college of physicians and surgeons first. They’ve never done this before and they’re doing it with respect.”

Alberta Hospital
‘I miss my wife,’ says Cory Ashley who still doesn’t know the cause of his wife’s death. Photo: APTN.

The College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA) is also investigating.

In December 2021, it called two nurses involved in the case to attend a hearing tribunal.

The CARNA website says that ‘If the Complaints Director determines there is evidence of unprofessional conduct, they may refer a matter to a Hearing.’

The hearings are scheduled for September 2022.

Ashley says he’s still fighting for justice and will “continue to fight for it every single second of every day.”

“Things have to be changed and I’m fighting for change. I want to see justice for my wife, and I want to honor and change things in the system to save people,” Ashley says.

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