ESCONDIDO, Calif. — A North County family is in a dispute with Palomar Medical Center over an expensive ring that was either lost or stolen from a stroke patient, while she was in the hospital.
The patient’s granddaughter said she can't get a straight answer from Palomar Health on how the jewelry went missing.
When Amanda Fazio’s grandmother suffered a stroke last month and was rushed to the emergency room of Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, the family wasn't thinking about the rings on the 79-year-old's fingers.
“She couldn't speak. She couldn't walk. She had lost all ability on her left side,” said Fazio.
The patient, Judy Rowe, also suffers from dementia. She spent eight days in and out of the hospital’s intensive care unit.
“It was terrifying, beyond emotional. We honestly thought we were going to lose her,” said Fazio. “She looked miserable, almost on death's door.”
It wasn't until later that the family noticed Rowe’s two rings were missing; one of them worth thousands of dollars, according to Fazio.
The granddaughter said the ring was 14 karat gold, with a large lapis stone, and 12 small diamonds.
“She knows it cost her $6,000 to purchase in 1987,” said Fazio. “She never took off that ring. She loved that ring.”
"She has been a successful businesswoman and a single mother from the time she was about 35, and this ring was her 'I did it' ring," said the granddaughter.
Fazio said she has had difficulty communicating with Palomar Medical Center to resolve the issue.
“We just want to know what happened to that ring and why we weren't called when they knew she had expensive jewelry on her hand,” said Fazio. “In the end, it's not necessarily about the money. It's about the sentimental value of this ring to my family.”
Palomar Health emailed News 8 the following statement:
“While not required by law, in good faith Palomar Health has taken responsibility for the loss of [the] rings and has offered to compensate the family for them. We conducted a full investigation, interviewed staff and made a full search of the premises but have not located the rings. We know our best efforts will not replace the loss of a priceless item and for this we are truly sorry.
This unfortunate case is a reminder to patients and their families to take valuables home or, as a last resort, have the hospital place them in its locked safe. Furthermore, California law prohibits hospitals from mandating patient’s possessions be locked up, without their consent."
It remains unclear whether the jewelry was lost or stolen.
“We're going to the hospital for care. We should trust our nurses and any employee of the hospital. We shouldn't have to worry if jewelry is going to be taken,” Fazio said.
The hospital and the family still must reach an agreement on what the ring is worth. An appraisal was never done on the ring, and family snapshots are not clear enough for a professional appraisal.
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