Keely Connolly thought she would be safe once the ambulance arrived at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center in Kansas.
She was having difficulty breathing because she’d had to miss a kidney dialysis treatment a few days earlier for lack of child care. Her potassium was dangerously high, putting her at risk of a heart attack. But she trusted she would be fine once she was admitted and dialysis was begun.
She panicked when a nurse told her that no beds were available and that she would have to be transferred — possibly more than 450 miles away to Denver. She had heard a rumor about a dialysis patient who died waiting for a bed at a hospital in Wichita, about an hour down the road.
“‘I don’t want to die in the ER,’” Connolly, 32, recalled thinking. “I just wanted them to fix me, but then the woman came in and