Woman: I couldn’t see my dying partner
BY JOAN FLEISCHMAN
During the Capital City Pride 2007 event Sunday Janice Langbehn recounts the agonizing first hours she was not allowed to see Lisa Pond, her partner of 18 years as she lay dying of a brain aneurysm at Miami hospital in early 2007.
A woman from Washington state says a Jackson Memorial Hospital social worker refused to let her see her dying partner and told her Florida is ”an anti-gay state,” according to an article in The Olympian that Rosie O’Donnell posted on rosie.com.
Janice Langbehn says Lisa Pond, her partner for 17 years, suffered a brain aneurysm Feb. 18 on the Norwegian Jewel, shortly before the couple and their three children, then 9 to 13, were to sail from Miami on an R Family Vacations cruise to the Caribbean.
O’Donnell’s partner Kelli co-founded R Family Vacations, which caters to gays and lesbians.
From The Olympian: “Langbehn, a social worker, said officials at . . . [JMH] did not recognize her or their jointly adopted children as part of Pond’s family. They were not allowed to be with her . . . and Langbehn’s authority to make decisions for Pond was not recognized . . .
“Even after a friend in Olympia faxed the legal documents that showed that Pond had authorized Langbehn to make medical decisions for her, Langbehn said she wasn’t invited to be with her partner or told anything about her condition. She said she wasn’t allowed to see Pond again until a priest arrived to give . . . Last Rites.”
Pond, 39, a special ed teacher’s assistant, died Feb. 19. The story hit the news Monday, after Langbehn recounted the incident Sunday at a gay pride festival in Olympia.
Washington ”is one of a half-dozen states to recognize same-sex partnerships in some fashion, Florida is not,” the article adds.
Langbehn told The Miami Herald the social worker’s name — Garnett Frederick.
Frederick, 54, ”strongly denies making the comments,” says JMH’s VP of public relations, Robert Alonso. Alonso says Pond was at Ryder Trauma Center, where doctors delivered ”immediate emergency clinical interventions.” That accounts for any delay in Langbehn seeing Pond, Alonso says. “We have a very liberal visitation policy. As soon as it’s humanly possible and appropriate to bring in visitors, we do.”
Langbehn, 38, says JMH did an about-face hours later when she said Pond had wanted to be an organ donor. ”They finally started talking to me.” Pond’s heart, liver and kidneys were used in transplants, Langbehn says.
Insists Langbehn: ‘It happened. He said it. It’s not that I want anyone to get in trouble. I want couples to be able to hold their dying partners’ hands. That is what was taken away from me. I didn’t get to say goodbye, and neither did our kids.”
Frederick, who has a doctorate in social welfare from Florida International University, has worked at Jackson for 16 years and has been honored for his work. Frederick’s supervisor calls him a ”strong patient advocate, experienced and extremely compassionate,” Alonso says.
Langbehn says she complained to Jackson through its website but never heard back. Alonso says the hospital will try to track her complaint.
Jackson ”strives to treat all patients and their families with respect and dignity,” Alonso says. “We have an extremely diverse work force serving an extremely diverse community.”
Langbehn says R Family Vacations immediately refunded the $6,300 for the missed cruise, and Rosie and Kelli sent flowers for Pond’s memorial Mass. From Rosie’s Feb. 22 unpunctuated e-mail to Langbehn: “i am so sad about the hospital not allowing u to b together i should not b shocked but i am over and over again how we r treated in the USA unreal.”
Kelli invited Langbehn and her kids to go on a free, weeklong cruise in July. Rosie will first put them up at the Shoreham in New York and treat them to dinner and the Broadway show Wicked. Langbehn writes about it on her website, thelpkids.com.