Heal Thyself

Rapid detox leaves a nurse suffering unforeseen side effects

Augustine says she thinks her rights have been violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has accepted her claim as valid, meaning that, if she chooses, she could take Cypress Creek to court. And she's filed a complaint against Methodist's Dr. Norman, for unauthorized disclosure of her medical records, with the Texas Board of Medical Examiners.

Back on the front end, Methodist's dueling doctors' notes are clear evidence of at least an administrative screwup. One that, at least for the past three months, has cost Augustine her job, and may yet cost her her license. The 40-year-old married mother of a nine-year-old daughter, Augustine has remained clean since her detox, but continues to struggle with mounting bills for follow-up therapy without an income. She's filed for her disability pay, but has yet to see a cent.

Dr. Norman failed to return e-mail from the Press requesting an interview, and Silverman returned via e-mail his regret that "due to patient confidentiality" he was not at liberty to discuss Augustine's care. Silverman subsequently failed to reply to a request for a general interview on the ultra-rapid detox procedure. Cypress Creek human resources director Livingston refused to comment, saying that "[Karen] can give you information however she chooses to breach her confidentiality. She can do that. I cannot." Over at Methodist, spokesperson Kathryn Tesar bounced responsibility to Baylor, and Baylor spokesperson Clair Bassett said that the institution has no comment.

And a comment, really, is what Karen Augustine wants more than anything. She's not even sure she wants to go back to work as a nurse, under the circumstances.

"It's changed, health care. I've done it for 12 years, and with the advent of HMOs and managed care, the patient recidivism rate is so high. It's real discouraging to me.

"The people I worked with, so-called professionals, weren't able to diagnose me themselves based on any behaviors that I exhibited. I was held up as a standard, as a matter of fact, as an exceptional employee. And then the way they reacted when they found out...."

Augustine may or may not want her job back, but what she does want, and hasn't been able to get, is an explanation for why, in doing the right thing, in seeking help, her confidentiality was violated. And an explanation for why, as an employee with a good record and a disease, she finds herself dismissed from a profession purportedly dedicated to healing.

E-mail Brad Tyer at brad_tyer@houstonpress.com.

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