Lynne SpauldingSan Francisco, CA – A woman who went missing from her hospital room was found dead 17 days later in one of the hospital’s stairwells.

On September 19th, 57-year-old Lynne Spaulding was admitted to San Francisco General Hospital, apparently for complications from a bladder infection. Her family says she was frail and thin when admitted, and were worried about her condition. Hospital staff were supposedly checking on Spaulding every 15 minutes due to her “frail condition and confused mental state,” which sounds a bit more serious than a simple bladder infection. Although, some sources are saying the medication the hospital had her on was making her disoriented.

The hospital said they last saw Spaulding in her fifth floor room at 10:15 am on September 21st, and that her condition had improved. A nurse checked on her fifteen minutes later and she was gone. When her boyfriend and two friends came to visit Spaulding shortly after, they were told she’d gone missing. Her family filed a missing persons report after the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and hospital staff conducted, what they believed to be, a thorough search of the hospital. They even passed out flyers all over town, desperately searching for leads and thinking she had left the hospital.

On the morning of October 8th, a building engineer found Spaulding’s body on the fourth floor landing of a rarely used stairwell during a routine check. The stairwell is locked from the outside and acts as a fire escape. Anyone opening it from the inside would trigger an alarm, so it’s being questioned how Spaulding made it out there without anybody noticing the alarm, if it went off at all. The Mayor told reporters that when they checked the door, the alarm was working fine.

“We just tested the door on the fifth floor and as soon as it opened, there was a slight delay, but there was an alarm that you could hear,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “But it’s a very busy floor, as well. … There is constant motion on that floor. So you have to put all of the facts into perspective.”

An apparent friend of Spaulding’s posted this piece of sad irony on the FIND LYNNE” Facebook page, 12 days prior to the discovery of her body: “The hospital is huge, there’s construction, I got lost getting out…. I thought how did Lynne navigate this?” She didn’t, as it turns out. Friends of Spaulding were not exactly thrilled that it took until Sept 30th for the hospital to issue this statement regarding her missing:

“San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center is concerned about the whereabouts of Lynne Ford, also known as Lynne Spalding, who left the hospital without being discharged on Saturday, Sept 21. Ms. Ford has not been seen since approximately 10:15am on Saturday, and is considered a missing person.  Ms. Ford was admitted to the hospital on September 19 and her condition was improving two days later. She was in fair condition when she left the hospital shortly after being checked on by a nurse at 10:15am. Fifteen minutes later, the nurse checked on her again, and upon finding her room empty, initiated a search of the hospital. When she was not found, SFGH staff then notified the family and sheriff’s department on site. SFGH is conducting an internal investigation and cooperating with the San Francisco Police Department’s investigation.”

The hospital’s statement is assuming she left the hospital, which she obviously did not. I’m sure patients do just up and leave all the time, especially in a hospital as large as this one in the middle of San Francisco, but that complacency proved fatal. There is, rightfully so, a huge, independent investigation going on called upon by the mayor. Her cause of death has yet to be determined, but I’m eager to hear it. They are ruling out foul play, saying she was not attacked.

Makes you wonder, though – did she wander in there all confused and then fall down the stairs and die? Was she so out of her mind that she couldn’t figure a way out and starved to death? Was it suicide? Complications from her original condition? I’ll be eager to hear the official cause of death.

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