A woman’s service dog saved her life when she warned her of an oncoming seizure. But, minutes after arriving at a hospital for treatment, a nurse refused to allow the pit bull, Nala to stay by her side, even threatening to send the life-saving dog to the pound.
“She saved my life on three different occasions,” 27-year-old Nicole Sorchinski said of her 3-year service dog, a pit bull named Nala that’s trained to detect seizures before they happen.
On Saturday, Nala alerted Sorchinski to an oncoming seizure, those of which aren’t uncommon following a traumatic brain injury she sustained during a car crash in 2015. A friend called paramedics who rushed Sorchinski, with Nala by her side, to nearby Ocean Medical Center in Brick, New Jersey.
But, about 20 minutes after arriving, a nurse told Sorchinski that her dog had to leave.
“She pointed at her watch and said, ‘you have 15 minutes or I’m calling animal control and she’s going to the pound for the night,'” Sorchinski told NJ.com.
A friend came to the hospital to pick up Nala. But, Sorchinski said she was so distraught by the incident that she left shortly after, before receiving any treatment.
“They weren’t even concerned about my seizure, they were concerned about the dog. I felt unsafe, like if this is how they’re going to treat my service dog, how will they treat me in my care?” she said.
Hackensack Meridian Health officials, which runs Ocean Medical Center, heard of Nicole and Nala’s treatment by the facility and reached out to apologize.
“We are deeply sorry for the experience expressed by our patient while visiting our emergency department. We are currently reviewing the situation to make certain protocols properly protect our patients and their service animals,” the organization said a statement. “While our goal is to keep patients and their service animals together whenever possible, there are situations where our team members must focus on providing the highest quality care for our patients. During this time, we believe it’s important to ensure there is someone that can care for the service animal while we provide care to our patients.”
Sorchinski believes that evicting her service dog was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which says that service dogs are allowed access anywhere their handlers go, including hospitals and emergency rooms.
Although Sorchinski is considering legal action, more so, she hopes employees at Ocean Medical Center improve their bedside manner and educate themselves on service animals and pit bulls.
“Just because a dog is a certain breed, that doesn’t discredit them,” she added. “Just because Nala is a pitbull, she shouldn’t be discriminated as a service dog.”