SAN FRANCISCO -- A lethal combination of dehydration and liver failure led a missing San Francisco woman to wander deliriously into a San Francisco General Hospital stairwell, where she lay undiscovered for 17 days before her body was found by a hospital employee, the medical examiner said Friday.
The body of Lynne Spalding, 57, was discovered in a rarely used exterior stairwell on the south side of the hospital Oct. 8, nearly three weeks after she was reported missing from her hospital bed. While the San Francisco medical examiner's report helped to illuminate how Spalding met her fate during that time period, it did little to explain how long she had been in the stairwell before she died -- only that she was "deceased for some days before being found."
While her family said the woman had no pre-existing conditions, the medical examiner discovered problems with Spalding's liver likely brought on by alcoholism. Her body showed no other signs of physical trauma that would have caused her to lose consciousness, the medical examiner said.
Spalding's official cause of death was ruled as "probable electrolyte imbalance with delirium," and was ultimately deemed an "accident," according to the report.
Spalding's boyfriend and daughter initially drove her to SFGH from her Mission District apartment building Sept. 19 after she began acting increasingly disoriented and lost a significant amount of weight, family spokesman David Perry said. Spalding was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and hospitalized in a fifth-floor room, steps from the nurses station, for two days before she went missing.
Despite the fact that authorities claimed to have conducted a "thorough search of the hospital," Spalding was discovered by an engineering employee during a routine check that officials admitted only occurs four times a year.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced Oct. 10 that the city would hire an independent consultant to conduct a "thorough, independent review" of security systems and protocols at San Francisco General Hospital, and vowed to leave "no stone unturned."
"This should not have happened, and we all agree, and we want to prevent it from happening again," Lee said.
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