Questions remain about Dot Jones’ ordeal

Fred McCormick

Surrounded by a foot of snow, lying in the road in front of her home in frigid conditions, 87-year-old Dot Jones was afraid.

“I was afraid that I would be hit while I was in the street,” she said, recalling one of the few memories she has of the incident during January’s Winter Storm Jonas. “I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t do anything.”

Jones was found in the road in front of her home in the early morning hours by Keith Belt, a town employee who was on his way home after clearing snow that had fallen in the Swannanoa Valley in previous days.

Jones’ daughter Pat is “extremely grateful” to Belt and everyone who came to her mothers’ aid, she said. She struggling to understand how the incident occurred in the first place.

Pat was at home in Atlanta when she got a call from her mother’s mobile phone.

“I knew she had been in the emergency room, and I believed she had left her cell phone at home,” Pat said. “When I answered it was the police. The officer said he was with her and she had been found lying in the street. I screamed. I was horrified.

“He also told me that the EMT said that her temperature was around 93 and was right at the onset of hypothermia and that she wouldn’t have lasted long if she had not been found.”

The ordeal started between 2:30-3 a.m. when her mother had been discharged from Mission Hospital, Pat learned.

“She was sent home in a cab, and the cab did not pull into her driveway, but instead let her out in the street,” Pat said. “She couldn’t have taken more than a step or two before she fell, because she told me that while she was on the ground she could see the taillights of the cab going down the street and turning the corner.”

Pat does not know how long her mother was in the snow before Belt happened upon her. She is concerned about the physical trauma her mother suffered because of the incident.

“She’s diabetic, and when you’re diabetic the first things affected are your toes and fingers,” Pat said. “Her fingers were frozen. I don’t know if there are any permanent long-term effects. But I don’t know if anyone else does either.”

Pat questions the hospital’s logic to discharge her mother in the early wee hours in those weather conditions.

“What occurred with Ms. Jones is deeply regrettable,” Mission Health said in a statement released by Rowena Buffett Timms, senior vice president of government and community relations. “We have reached out to Ms. Jones and remain in touch with her and her family. We also took immediate action to review and revise policies to ensure that we are sensitive to the needs of our patients not only inside our hospital walls, but outside of them as well.

“We want to make sure this never happens again and will continue to work to meet the high standards our patients deserve.”

Mission Health said the cab company it called to take Jones home was New Blue Bird Cab. A call that The Black Mountain News placed to the cab company on Friday was not immediately returned.

A statement that Timms released said Mission had, as a result of the incident, “strengthen(ed) our Safe Discharge policy” to address “both transportation and family communication during a severe weather event.” The changes are being incorporated into its electronic medical records, according to the statement.

As of last week, Jones continued her recovery from the incident and reported feeling “sore” nearly two weeks later. Pat, who would like to see her mother receive a personal apology from the hospital and cab company, would like to know that something like this will not happen to anyone else.

“Someone could have made sure that she made it to the door,” she said. “I talk to the hospital every day, and they say they are making policy changes, which is great. But they have yet to say what they are willing to do for my mother. And she’s still feeling the effects.”