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Published: Friday, Jul. 29, 2011 / Updated: Friday, Jul. 29, 2011 09:15 AM

Woman locked in Rock Hill doctor’s office after hours

Waiting in exam room, patient didn’t know she was alone until her son came to window

By Nicole E. Smith – nsmith@heraldonline.com

ROCK HILL —

Candida Miller said she was just being patient as she waited in an examining room at a Rock Hill doctor’s office Wednesday afternoon. A nurse had checked her blood pressure and other vital signs.

The door was shut.

But after more than two hours, when her son started knocking on the outside window, Miller realized the doctors and nurses had closed up the office and gone home.

“I heard knocking on the window,” Miller, 61, said Thursday through tears. “It scared me. He said, ‘Are you in there by yourself?’ I said, ‘I haven’t seen the doctor yet.’ Then I realized I’m here by myself.

“Oh my God, how am I going to get out? I don’t know what to do.”

Miller has been in a wheelchair since a hip replacement surgery in 2007. She is having problems with her hip again and had made a pre-surgery appointment with a surgical specialist at Novant Medical Group, 1721 Ebenezer Road. It was her second visit to the office.

One of her sons, Michael Miller, drove her to the appointment. He wheeled her into the examining room at about 4:15 p.m. and waited with her until he left around 5:30 to pick up his son from summer camp. His mother would call when her appointment was over.

When Michael Miller returned to the doctor’s office around 6 p.m., the doors were locked.

“The building was closed,” he said. “I started calling everyone to see if anybody had picked her up.”

He checked his mother’s house and began to worry that something had happened and she’d been taken to Piedmont Medical Center.

He returned to the doctor’s office, walked to the back window, and started knocking. After he located his mother, Miller called his brother Gary and Gary’s wife, Karen Cherry Crockett.

Karen Crockett said her husband was so upset he could hardly tell her: “Mom is inside of the building and everybody’s gone.”

“I was about to knock the door down,” he said. “It really threw me. I was going out of my mind. I just knew my mom had been in there for a long time.”

He called the office’s after-hours number and 911 when he realized what was going on. Crockett said an officer was with them before 7 p.m.

Rock Hill police records show a call was received just after 7 p.m. about a woman being locked in a doctor’s office. The records show officers arrived 10 minutes later.

Inside, Candida Miller wasn’t worried until she realized she was alone.

“I had heard footsteps and been waiting a long time but didn’t know they had closed,” she said. “Then I panicked. I was really scared. It was awful.”

She said she was hesitant to wheel out of the room and try a door, fearful an alarm would go off and someone would think she was breaking in or robbing the office.

She was also scared to stand and fall out of her wheelchair.

Eventually, she wedged the room door open and pushed herself through. She reached the lobby. The front doors unlocked from the inside, and she was able go outside about 7:30 p.m.

“Oh Lord, I felt everything just lift to the Lord,” she said.

Crockett said her family doesn’t understand how something like that could happen. Crockett was concerned because Miller couldn’t eat before she went to the doctor’s appointment.

“She missed her medicine, and her blood pressure was high,” Crockett said. “She could have had a heart attack or stroke. Anything could have happened.”

Practice manager Brenda Madsen of Novant said the doors were locked at 5:30 p.m., and she did not leave until a little after 6 p.m.

The incident is a miscommunication with the staff, she said. Miller had been taken to the room but had not been seen.

On Thursday morning, she said staff called a meeting and talked about what they can do to make sure nothing similar happens again. One of the options staff members discussed was walking through every room and bathroom at the end of the day to make sure no one is still there.

“Our priorities are the safety and well-being of our patients, and we’re very sorry this happened,” she said.

This is the first time anything like this has happened, she said.

Crockett was glad steps were being taken to prevent it from recurring. She said she hopes other doctors’ office learn from the mistake.

Nicole E. Smith 803-329-4068
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