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  • Lawson D'Nago

The Mob

On one of our many Lyft rides in Las Vegas, we had a driver that had lived in Las Vegas long enough to scorn it. He spoke on how you wouldn't find locals walking the Las Vegas strip and how the era of mobsters may be technically gone but, in his opinion, the mob just took on a new form as those who run the hotels. I didn't think anything of it. We had an array of colorful and unique drivers during our stay. We had one that recommended all the best hole in the wall restaurants and we had this one along with the silent driver and plenty others.

However, I am beginning to understand that statement is more true than any other piece of information we got from anyone else there about the city.

Leading up to our trip to Las Vegas we asked friends for recommendations on things to do. I searched Pinterest for blogs and ideas for things to see and restaurants to try. We searched and used our resources to understand more about the city we had never been to before so we could prepare for the things we were told to expect. We were told to pack saline spray because the climate was so dry. We were told to take mini bottles because drinks were so expensive. Ironically, we were told (and I had) to buy a cup and keep it and just refill it with the minis I brought. We were given recommendations on shows and dos and don'ts for gambling. We found, what we thought, were articles and blogs and information on just about every aspect of Las Vegas. What didn't pop up in our vacation research was the other side to Vegas. The side that no one warned us about.

The evening everything took place, Larry and I were not given any paperwork when I was "released" from the hospital. We did not receive my discharge papers, information on what to expect in the instance of a drugging, contact information if I wanted to follow-up on doing that police report or needed counseling-- nothing. All the things I would have expected to have been done being that I was in a hospital and NOT a drunk tank in jail. I got into bed eager to just be home. I wanted to peel myself out of the city like I did my swimsuit. I tossed and turned and woke up multiple times throughout the night before being permanently awake at 5:30am. I sent three texts into work to my respective points of contact and then laid there watching an almost mute tv and silently counting down until we could officially get up and get out.

I replayed what I could remember and my imagination filled in the moments I didn't recall with ideas of what could have happened and what people's reactions and remarks could have been. I laid there feeling worse and the humiliation grew.

At the airport I felt numb to everything around me. I felt as if the sparkle and life of the town we were so eager to see was gone and I was just left with this feeling of isolation and vulnerability.

Because Larry had to change our flights, we didn't have the best place in line for seat selections once we boarded. On top of the anxieties and emotions revolving around the day before, now, during a time when I needed to be held the most, was the possibility of not being able to sit with my husband on the 2-hour flight back home to San Antonio. We got into the plane and I could feel myself want to cry with every single empty seat we passed. We got to the very back of the plane and in the very last row were two seats together with the window seat (my preference) open. I don't want to get into how awful the turbulence was on that flight and how that added onto the fear and anxiety I was already feeling. But the flight sucked.

We got home and I hugged my son. I hugged him tighter than I probably ever have. I hugged him and thanked God that he brought me home safely to him.

I spent the rest of Monday and Tuesday at home on the couch shifting between conversations with Larry trying to collaboratively piece together a timeline, asking him questions, and crying because I felt horrible about the whole thing. He encouraged me to write my story and get it out there. I knew I had to before I was out of the feelings I felt, before my recollection of the days I was there began to blend and things became fuzzier. I knew I needed to get it out and share it because I knew that this could not be the only story out there like it. And it hasn't been. And the deeper I get into this the more I will probably find that it won't be.

I went to work the Wednesday after everything occurred. I got to the front door of the building and felt my hands begin to shake. It had been my first real time out in public, and by myself, since everything happened. I knew I was safe. I work in a place that requires you to have granted access into the area in which I am at. I knew nothing could happen to me yet there I was shaking.

I wasn't ready to go back. I knew I wasn't ready. But I had to push myself to feel uncomfortable and get back into a routine that was normal and okay. I needed to push forward.

I contacted a friend familiar with situations like the one that happened to me and asked for advice on what the next steps were for me to take when it came to taking on the treatment, or lack there of, I was given at the hospital.

After consulting with my friend, I began to feel motivated. There was a plan. I had the option of having a plan. I didn't feel so helpless and as if there was nothing I could do. I had a plan. I had to file the police report. That was the first step...

I went onto the Las Vegas Police Department's website to file the report. They had an option to file one online. Unfortunately, my situation did not fall under the category options that could be filed online. Because I was not from Las Vegas or Nevada, their website advised for me to file a report with my state/city police department and have them send it to them to further investigate it on their end.

After a back and forth from San Antonio's non-emergency line trying to figure out how to handle the situation of filing the report for something that didn't happen in Texas much less not in San Antonio, they sent two detectives to my home to take down mine and Larry's statements. I was scared. I began to question my situation. I began to doubt my experience. I began to feel like I shouldn't report something that I had no idea who the perpetrator was. I began to feel like I should just call them back and forget about it. But before I could psych myself out of filing the report, two officers were knocking on my door.

An hour later. Every detail that I could remember from that day and Larry's statement filling in the moments I couldn't. Multiple questions answered and questions asked from both us and the detectives. The officers shocked at the lack of protocol taken by the hospital over the possible drugging. I got told that when I went to the restroom I should have been sent with a cup. I got told that because I told the nurses I wasn't always with my husband at the pool and I had no recollection of anything else and no one there to attest to me always being around someone I knew, I should have been administered a rape kit. That I should have been consulted on the effects of the common date rape drugs and how long I could be feeling the effects of them. That I should have been treated better than a drunk in a holding cell. Then I was told the worst thing I had not thought to think. The detective looked off in thought and then said, "I don't even know what penal code we'd put this under. There isn't a specific code for drugging. It's typically reported in situations where the victim was raped or molested and then coded under that. But there isn't any code for a drugging alone." I sat there in my living room in shock. Had I known who drugged me, there is no code to report it under unless I was sexually taken advantage of under the drug. I asked the officer if it was because not many people report being drugged unless it escalates to that point. He said, "unfortunately, yes." He said that if there is not enough frequency in reporting something, a penal code specific for that report is not there. I knew that in my case there was no one to pin it on. I didn't know who did this to me. But what about those who do have an idea who did? There's no official offense that a victim can report?! Are you kidding?!

My feelings of fear turned to anger and hunger for answers. I began to search for laws, procedures, any and all information regarding druggings in Nevada, Las Vegas, and Texas. And I found that there is not a law to protect the victims or a reliable test that could detect the drugs commonly used as date rape drugs.

I had spent my first month back home only ordering drinks from a bottle or going to places where I could order a fountain drink or clearly see the server pouring my drink. I ordered my Starbucks coffee and never took my eyes off of the cup. I stood there waiting for my venti iced latte absorbing the fact that this was my new normal.

A week after everything happened, I checked my mail after work to find the bill from the paramedics. They wasted no time in sending that out to me. It reminded me to stay on track with the plan I was given and follow through with the next step after filing the report. I had to call the hospital.

I read the reviews on various sites about the hospital. The reviews on Google stood out to me most. People commenting about their friends going into the hospital that were possibly drugged and being treated poorly and given minimum or no medical attention. A husband talking about how he wasn't allowed to be with his wife when he took her in for steep fall and being brushed off my the nursing staff with dry remarks and sarcastic comments. Then, I read the reviews that veered away from feeling similar to my situation. I read reviews about waiting long periods of time to be released and staff making excuses as to why you were not allowed to leave yet. I read reviews on how they refused patients the right to call their friends or family to help in leaving. And those were the comments that bothered me most.

Larry and I were practically rushed out the door. We were mushed out so fast that they didn't even give me my copy of my discharge papers. They did not bring us both together to talk to us about being drugged. They did nothing in the sort to keep us there any longer than felt needed. And while reading the reviews I began to ask myself, "why?" Why was it that we were rushed out or not given a copy of any documentation. When Larry asked if we needed to speak to the registar's department about adding my insurance to my record we were told, "They have her name and information. They will know how to reach you to get all that taken care of." We were not held back or restrained from leaving but instead pushed out so fast Larry nor I had a chance to ask any questions about my care or consult about my situation.

The following day after receiving the paramedic bill, on my way home from work, I called the Patient Advocate at Sunrise Hospital. I left a voice message asking to be called back to discuss my experience at their hospital.

I got a call back a few moments later. I didn't know how to start talking about my experience. Or how to sound irrational and illogically angry. I took a breath and introduced the conversation by letting her know I had concerns about my experience that I wanted to address. I went through the whole scenario. I spoke about how I asked what the tests said and how they said they didn't run any tests. I spoke about not being given my discharge papers. I told her I recalled signing something and don't know what it was. I let her know that my husband was told he could not stay with me. I mentioned everything and how I felt like I was not given adequate care considering the state I came in. What she told me sounded more like a Hospital Advocate rather than a Patient Advocate.

She told me that in Las Vegas, rather than being arrested, the send people who are publicly intoxicated to the hospital to sober up because it is a tourist town and they don't want visitors to deal with an arrest on their vacation. I was told that I only "assume" I was drugged. I told her that it was her staff that brought it to my attention that it was highly possible that this was the case. She then said that within my records, there was no notation from the staff that mentioned a possible drugging. She also mentioned that they did not record a blood/alcohol level count on my paperwork. She told me that they do not have any protocol for drug victims and they do not have a test that detect GHB. She said that the reason Larry was not allowed back there is because, like a drunk tank, guests are not allowed access to stay with the patient. Patients are just to looked over by staff and released when they feel that the patient is safe and functioning enough to leave on their own. I sat in my car with my heart in my throat listening to this woman sweep blame under the rug and wipe her hands of any liability from the hospital for how they treated me.

I paused and collected my thoughts after the shock fell over from the reaction and lack of assistance I received from this woman. I pinned down key points and took her on. She knew where I was picked up from the paramedics which meant she knew which medication I was on because the paramedics asked Larry about that. I asked her, "Okay, so let's say I was just drunk and I'm brought in due to alcohol poisoning. You have the reports from the paramedics in front of you because you just mentioned my pick up location. So, you would also know which prescribed medication I was on." I took a breath and continued, "I was on 20mg of Adderall which is an upper, and brought in for extreme alcohol intoxication, which is a downer. At no point did your staff think this to be a risk to at least place a heart monitor on me to make sure my heart didn't stop from the mixture of substances?" She didn't answer. I proceeded with asking is my medical history was ever documented. She told me it wasn't. I asked if it was protocol to not ask for any medical history of those that go in there and she responded by saying that for those who come in intoxicated, nurses are limited in what they do to assess that type of patient. I reiterated my question and asked if my medical history was recorded. It wasn't. I then said, "If you all would have taken a moment to ask my husband about the situation and ask him questions about mine and my family's medical history, you would have found that my mother has a heart problem and I have a history of heart issues. But because you didn't, your staff took the risk of leaving me on a hospital bed without any way to track if I began to code. I came in unconscious and my heart could have stopped and you all would have never known."

She was quiet for what felt like forever before she responded with, "I am going to relay your concerns to our ER director and see how it is that they want to handle this. I will follow-up with you once I speak to them. In the meantime, you can call our Medical Records department and they can get you a copy of your records and discharge papers that you signed."

It's been one month and my insurance has been billed by the hospital. They coded the bill to charge for a high severity/immediate significant threat to life for physiological function patient. This situation has opened my eyes to so many things. It has shown me that there is lack of resources for others who find themselves in similar situations. It has shown me the lack of empathy in Las Vegas toward victims of these type of cases. I spoke with another girl who's drugging story in Las Vegas was almost identical to mine and found that this practice and treatment is the norm.

I sat and really thought about this. I thought about the driver who said the mob had taken a new form and I even took my thoughts further and recalled an article I read about the Mandalay Bay victims and how things were brushed under the rug because it was "bad for business," and even how MGM was suing the victims and their families! That's when it hit me.

If 58 deaths and over 500 wounded victims could not pause the city to show sympathy and concern due to the risk of losing business, why would drug victims? No hotel wants to admit that there locations have been the home to several druggings. No hotel wants to be mentioned as the spot that a drugged rape occurred. Better to turn the story around and place blame on the victim and simply say they couldn't handle their alcohol. Like a mob, these hotels have seen their share of death and injury. And like the mob, all evidence pointing to them has been washed leaving the victim to look like a liar with a lousy excuse to cover up and not admit to just being really drunk.

I went to Las Vegas excited and feeling confident and happy to be in place that gave way to opportunities to relax and enjoy time with husband. I never would have expected I come back from that trip needing to bring attention to the secrets the city hides so well.

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