Unlike Cinderella - the type of fairy tale Belinda so disliked - Belinda never made it to the ball. "But that's how fairy tales are when they're trapped in reality. All the king's horses and all the king's men can't bring dreamers back to life ..." she wrote in her song "Fairy Tale." She wrote that as a teen, but experience had already taught her that unlike the popular tales, fair maidens often fall. As she would sing it, "I don't mean to break your heart but these fairy tales aren't true at all ...."
On Halloween morning, in the pitch-black pre-dawn, Belinda writhed inside her koreatown apartment. Her vomiting recurred, her gut churned; nausea overwhelmed. Pain deepened everywhere. She called 911. Belinda arrived at Good Samaritan Hospital emergency room at 4:05 a.m. The triage station - where sick people are sorted through to determine who needs help fastest - marked her "non-urgent." Had it been crowded, Belinda could have waited hours. Then again, had she waited, perhaps someone would have realized Belinda was much sicker than that brief triage showed. But in a stroke of ill luck, Belinda saw a doctor quickly: A doctor who'd previously lost privileges at two hospitals and had finished two years of probation. A doctor who'd give her a cursory examination and find no cause for concern. Back pain: positive. Extremity pain: positive. Lungs: clear. The doctor ordered no lab tests or X-rays, but gave her intravenous phenergan, an anti-nausea med. According to her charts, he didn't visit her after that:
5:30 am: Pt. complaining of shooting full body pain. Dr. notified.
6:10 am: Dr. Oblitas aware pt. still in pain. No pain medication to be given per MD orders.
Pt. reports that nausea is relieved. Vital signs stable. Pt. approved for discharge.
6:25 a.m. Discharge instructions: Gastritis. "You have an inflammation of the stomach, called gastritis."
Belinda went home in a cab.
Late Halloween afternoon, Belinda called Avi "I hate to ask you this," he remembers her saying, "but I need some money for food." Avi agreed to come by. Shortly before sunset, Avi drove up to Belinda's apartment and called her from his cell phone. She didn't answer. He found that strange, since she'd spoken with him a half hour prior. She knew he was coming. He climbed the fence and found her on the back porch, grasping a burnt out cigarette and gazing into space. He decided he couldn't just drop off money and let her go to the store herself. "I basically told her I'd either get the food myself or she'd come with me," he said.
He drove her to the nearby Ralph's store. Belinda leaned on Avi as they shopped. Somewhere near the bakery section, Belinda "crumpled," Avi remembers. She lacked the strength to take another step. She asked Avi to get her a motorized cart. She waited on the floor. As Avi retrieved the cart, Belinda lost more lucidity. Within that few minutes, several shoppers began to worry; one called 911.
Belinda could to speak to paramedics and answer a few questions, but she was hypoglycemic. Blood glucose, which fuels the brain, normally ranges between 70 and 100 milligrams per deciliter in a person who hasn't eaten in several hours. Below 50, a person starts to lose mental function. Belinda's had dipped to 42. Avi recognized one of the medics from a prior visit to Belinda's house. He remembers the medic saying, "This is the worst I've ever seen her."
Medics took her to Olympia Medical Center. This time, doctors determined that Belinda had elevated liver enzymes and elevated acetaminophen levels. What happened from there is somewhat of a mystery. A doctor ordered Mucomyst, but either no one gave it to her or no one documented giving it to her. Belinda wanted to go back to Cedars, but the beds at that hospital were full, Avi heard. It had something to do with the parade.