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Raleigh mom worried while missing son was at Durham hospital

Posted October 10, 2012
Updated October 11, 2012

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— A Raleigh mother was left to wonder why she never got a call during the six days that her schizophrenic son was being cared for at a Durham hospital.

Carnell Shuler said her son, Ray Williams, 23, left their home Oct. 2 for the day with $3 in bus fare and no medication. Two days later, when he failed to return, she reported him missing, and the state issued a Silver Alert.

All the while, Williams was being cared for at Durham Regional Hospital for his mental disorder, Shuler discovered Tuesday evening.

Shuler said her son told her that a Wake County sheriff's deputy took him to the hospital. She's unsure why the hospital never contacted anyone in light of the Silver Alert.

For days, she said, she was left fearing the worst.

"I was crying all the time. I was worried. I couldn't sleep," she said. "I think they need to step forward and be more responsible."

Even when she called the hospital herself, she said, she was told that, because of her son's age, medical staff couldn't tell her if he had been admitted.

Shuler said her son also asked the staff to contact her several times.

A hospital spokeswoman declined to talk about Williams' case but said that staff doesn't generally check Silver Alerts unless law enforcement asks that they do so.

Jim Sughrue, a spokesman for the Raleigh Police Department, said that both the police officer and detective assigned to Williams' case checked for him at numerous places, including Raleigh hospitals and mental health facilities. Carnell Shuler Mom worried while missing son was at hospital

"There was nothing in the information that was provided or that was developed during the course of the follow-up investigation that linked the missing person to Durham or suggested he might have left Wake County," Sughrue said in an email.

"He was reported to have no means of transportation and no money," Sughrue added.

Developed in 2007, the Silver Alert system quickly notifies the public about missing, endangered adults who suffer from dementia or other cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer's disease.

It also allows caregivers and nursing homes to report a person missing. In the past, only a family member could report an adult missing.

First Sgt. Jeff Gordon, of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, and the director of the state's Center for Missing Persons says that once a Silver Alert or Amber Alert is issued, law enforcement agencies, as well as the media, are notified.

Hospitals, however, have to sign up to receive such notifications.

52 Comments

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  • pedsRN Oct 12, 2012

    Unfortunately HIPPA laws prevent hospitals prevent them from contacting the mother. Psych wards are probably even stricter. A couple of years ago, a cousin was hospitalized at UNCH. My aunt knew she was there but apparently something had gotten signed by mistake in the admission process & she could get no info on her daughter & she was looking after her grandchildren. Her daughter had gone to the ICU after getting transported to UNCH & could not call her mother. It was a really messed up situation.

  • superman Oct 12, 2012

    I sympathize with the mother but please dont expect other people to take care of your personal problems. The responsiblity is not theirs--it is yours. So you expect the hospital to pick up the phone and call members of the family and notify them. Get real.

  • affirmativediversity Oct 11, 2012

    I don't think it's unreasonable to ask the hospital to sign up for these alerts. Presumably they new what his problem was by day 6 making finding of next of kin, to assist in decision making, a priority. per ezLikeSundayMorning

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    The only problem with your rationale is that it assumes that the adult patient has no problem with the hospital notifying whomever inquires about their status.

    What happens if the family is estranged? What happens if this adult (when stable) prefers not to communicate with the person making the inquiries? What happens if one party has a restraining order against the other?

    There is a reason why hospitals and medical providers can just give out information...even to "mothers"...

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Oct 11, 2012

    I don't think it's unreasonable to ask the hospital to sign up for these alerts. Presumably they new what his problem was by day 6 making finding of next of kin, to assist in decision making, a priority.

  • lasm Oct 11, 2012

    I greatly feel for this mom. We can only imagine the anxiety she went through. I believe, except for the hospital, all involved did all they could do. As for the hospital, I am going to give them a "D"; because, as stated in the article, "Hospitals, however, have to sign up to receive such notifications." Why don't they just "sign up"? It would seem such a simple thing to do since cases such as this one happen often.

  • eerye70 Oct 11, 2012

    just an FYI, the ER or hospital (esp the psych unit) will not be telling anyone that so and so is there, unless they signed the form that says put me on the register. They could have, however, gone to the patient and said, your mom is calling, would you like for you and I to call her now, to make her feel better? I wonder what his level of psychosis was to be admitted. now a days, you have to be very sick to get admitted, there just aren't many inpt beds any more. which is very sad. Secondly, the hospital could have notified the social worker on the floor and she could have done more looking into the patient status for next of kin and worked with him from that end. I think the hospital should now ask to be on the silver alert list, now that they know it has come up....

  • affirmativediversity Oct 11, 2012

    I would think and hope that if she had told the hospital that her son had mental problems and there was an amber alert for him, they would have at least checked the amber alerts. Did she just call the switchboard at the hospital and ask? Just seems like there's more to this story. per JAT

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    I would have also thought that prior to issuing a Silver Alert the PD would have made a quick check of its calls responses and paid particular attention to black, males in their early 20's who were driven to the local ER within that 6 day period...

  • affirmativediversity Oct 11, 2012

    Silver Alert or no...under HIPPA neither the hospital or any of its staff could "just tell her" anything.

    I hate that this woman had to worry for six days BUT I wonder why she can't just be thankful that her son was found not only safe but being provided appropriate care for his medical condition.

    Sometimes you have to stop obsessing on the half empty part of the glass and be thankful for the half full portion.

  • JAT Oct 11, 2012

    I would think and hope that if she had told the hospital that her son had mental problems and there was an amber alert for him, they would have at least checked the amber alerts. Did she just call the switchboard at the hospital and ask? Just seems like there's more to this story.

  • ladyblue Oct 11, 2012

    Two days later, when he failed to return, she reported him missing, and the state issued a Silver Alert.

    Since a missing person such as this man is listed as silver alert why did it take her two days to notify anyone...I also want to tell folks from experience that the mental institution does not have to disclose anything to anyone unless documentation has been written up that a patient wants a certain one to know..

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