The first Albertan to die from a rare blood clot condition linked to a COVID-19 vaccine was turned away from an Edmonton hospital two days before her death, a family friend says.
Lisa Stonehouse, 52, died Saturday at the University of Alberta Hospital.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday that a woman in her 50s died of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Hinshaw did not identify the woman, but family members confirm that Stonehouse was Alberta’s first fatal case.
Wilfred Lowenberg, a friend, said Stonehouse was turned away from the emergency department at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital. Two days later, she was admitted to the Strathcona Community Hospital. She was later transferred to the U of A Hospital with a blood clot in her brain.
“The vaccine was supposed to save lives and it ended up taking hers,” Lowenberg told CBC News on Wednesday.
“Even if there is only a one-in-a-million chance for someone to develop a blood clot from AstraZeneca, I personally think that’s too many.”
The family is asking Covenant Health, the Catholic health-care provider that manages the Grey Nuns, to investigate why she was turned away, Lowenberg said.
An internal investigation is ongoing, Covenant Health said in a statement Wednesday.
“We offer our deepest condolences to her family and loved ones at this difficult time,” the statement said.
“Covenant Health, in collaboration with Alberta Health Services, is actively investigating all circumstances surrounding [Stonehouse’s] visit to the emergency department, and have assured the family we are looking into their concerns.”
It’s estimated that VITT occurs in one in every 100,000 to 250,000 vaccinations, according to Hinshaw.
Stonehouse is the second person in Alberta with a confirmed case. More than 253,000 doses of AstraZeneca or CoviSHIELD/AstraZeneca have been administered in the province.
Last month, Quebec reported Canada’s first death of a patient after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. On Wednesday, a second VIIT death was confirmed, in New Brunswick.
In a statement, Hinshaw said the risk of COVID-19 is far greater than the risk of VITT.
She said Albertans ages 50 to 59 diagnosed with COVID-19 are 350 times more likely to die from that infection than to experience VITT after an AstraZeneca vaccine.
Felt sick right after shot
Stonehouse got her shot on April 21. Almost immediately, she felt stiff and sick, Lowenberg said. She felt increasingly unwell and developed an unbearable headache.
On April 29, with her symptoms worsening, she called Health Link but was told she was likely dealing with a normal vaccine reaction, Lowenberg said.
Later that night, her daughter drove her to the ER at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in southeast Edmonton, Lowenberg said.
Her head was throbbing, and she was weak and vomiting. Stonehouse was sent home to rest, Lowenberg said.
On April 30, her daughter again drove her to the ER, this time at the Strathcona Community Hospital in Sherwood Park. She was admitted. A CT scan showed a blood clot had formed, triggering a fatal bleed in her brain.
Stonehouse was transferred to the U of A Hospital, but in the ambulance she suffered a seizure and was intubated, Lowenberg said.
The following day, she was taken off life support.
Daughter, 19, has lost both parents
Lowenberg said the family wants to know why Stonehouse was “summarily dismissed” during her initial visit to the ER at the Grey Nuns.
He wonders if the 12-hour delay in care contributed to her death.
Stonehouse’s daughter, Jordan, 19, has now lost both her parents.
Stonehouse’s husband of 17 years, Morrie, died in January 2019 after a brain aneurysm.
Lowenberg said Stonehouse, a bookkeeper, had an infectious laugh. He said she was selfless, intelligent, witty and “amazing.”
Stonehouse had big plans for life after the pandemic.
“The only reason she took the vaccine is because she wanted to travel the world with Jordan,” he said.
“She wanted to take Jordan to all the places that her and Morrie had gone to. She wanted to spend her life with her daughter, just enjoying life.”