Renee Thornhill’s family wants answers
33-year-old Little Bay East native died in an Ottawa hospital while being treated for mental illness
Edna Lockyer wants to know why her physically healthy 33-year-old niece, Renee Thornhill, died at the Ottawa Hospital while receiving care for mental health issues.
The Little Bay East native had been hospitalized three days earlier after exhibiting symptoms her family thought might be in line with psychosis. Following a floor and room switch from the mental health emergency unit to a mental health ward the evening before, Thornhill was found unresponsive the next morning (Monday, May 21) at 4:30 a.m.
The coroner’s report states that there were no obvious signs as to the cause of death. Although Thornhill had struggled in the past with opioid addiction following a car accident and a back injury, Lockyer said her niece had been off drugs in the months leading up to her death. Her bloodwork tested negative for opioids when she was admitted to the hospital and she did not have access to them during her stay there.
Lockyer believes her niece may have been overmedicated, but has no proof of that. She said Thornhill’s mother, Wanda Thornhill, worried that her daughter’s medication might be doubled when she was switched to another floor the night before she died. She said she made her concerns clear to the staff members overseeing the move.
“They were giving her medication and her mother said, ‘Make sure that’s on her chart so they don’t duplicate it upstairs,’” Lockyer said.
The family has other concerns about the care Thornhill received, as well. Lockyer contends that at one point Thornhill seemed groggy and off balance. “Wanda told them, ‘She’s falling over,’” Lockyer said. “’What happens if I leave and she falls down?’” She said the nurse did not seem concerned.
Lockyer said she also worried when she saw the mental health unit Thornhill was moved to was a shared ward.
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Edna Lockyer describes her niece — “Renee was an absolutely beautiful, very talented, very loving young woman. She had the biggest heart.”