I was recently asked the question, “What was suspicious about Roger’s death,” referring to my father, former Logan County, IL State’s Attorney Roger Thompson. Where do I begin? There’s no short answer. I’ve devoted many chapters in my trilogy, BURIED TRUTH, to all the circumstances surrounding his illness, his resulting hospitalization, his untimely and disturbing death, and the unfolding facts. It’s complicated and some of it involves technical medical information – an abundance of it contained in my trilogy.
Dad first entered the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital ER (Lincoln, IL) on Feb. 25, 2001. Dora Voges Thompson (my stepmother, who was also my father’s legal secretary) withheld this information from our family. To this day, Dora has still never admitted to us that Dad entered the ALMH ER prior to being admitted to Springfield Memorial Medical Center (SMMC) on Feb. 27, 2001.
My mother, my brother, Scotty, and I also didn’t learn about Dad being admitted to SMMC until the evening of March 4, 2001. Dora delayed telling us. Mom and I were home all day on the 4th to receive a call from Dora, but she chose to not call us and to call Scotty, instead. This was unusual. Scotty had minimal contact with Dora over the years (they were not at all close). I’d always been much closer to Dad and Dora. Dora had been my eighth grade music teacher at West Lincoln School, so I’d known and interacted with her much more than Scotty had. I believe she called Scotty because she knew I’d ask a lot of questions about Dad, whereas Scotty would just take in the information, which is exactly what happened. Dora had obviously avoided calling me.
Dora told Scotty on March 4th that Dad had been admitted to the hospital “for back and sciatic pain” and “an MRI had shown a lump on his spine and some gel oozing out between some of his disks.” After speaking with Dora, and then speaking to Dad briefly, Scotty phoned us that same evening. Scotty stressed that he’d never heard Dad sound so bad. He said Dad could “hardly talk.” I was miffed that Dora had waited so long to tell us what was going on, and Scotty was also not happy with her. We both felt her delay in notifying us was irresponsible and odd.
I then called SMMC, and Dora answered the phone in Dad’s hospital room. She basically told me the same thing she’d told Scotty, but she added that Dad’s condition required back surgery. Then she added, “He’s not a candidate for back surgery.” I asked her why, and she said he was “too restless.” That didn’t make sense to me because if he underwent back surgery he’d be under anesthesia and not conscious to be “restless.” Dora’s entire focus was on the issue regarding Dad’s back problem. I asked her more questions and also for the names of his attending doctors at SMMC. She gave me two names, and one doctor was a neurologist. I asked her why Dad needed a neurologist. Dora said (like it was an afterthought), “Well, now they’re wondering if he might have had a stroke.” I asked her if he’d had a stroke, and she told me they didn’t know. I asked when they’d know, and she said they were running some tests.
This was only the beginning of the information Dora began to withhold from us and also lie to us about. It took a lawsuit to find out all the facts and information that Dora Voges Thompson withheld from Roger Thompson’s family and medical professionals. A lawsuit leads to DISCOVERY. The facts she withheld were/are significant.
After my father died and the wrongful death/medical malpractice suit was filed, we learned that he’d been admitted to the ALMH ER prior to being admitted to SMMC. He was “aphasic” when he arrived at the ALMH ER on Feb, 25, 2001. Noted in the ER medical records was, “Stroke,” and “now presents increased aphasia, difficult consultation, unable to complete sentences.” Dora was doing most of the communicating for my father, but she was also doling out to hospital personnel and doctors (at both hospitals) a chart entitled “RWT Medications,” listing the medications Dad was supposedly taking at the time. I think she was handing out these charts in lieu of actually speaking to people about his medications. People could just look at the chart and accept the information as accurate. After all, it was coming from Roger Thompson’s wife. But not all the information included on those charts (there were a few charts with different dates) was accurate – explicitly the information relating to Dad’s lithium dosage. My father had been diagnosed as bipolar and prescribed lithium – he’d been taking it since 1981.
After running numerous tests at the ALMH ER, the ER doctor’s concluding diagnosis was “Difficulty speaking, possible secondary to TIA versus possible medication side effect,” and also “drug overdose” was a concern. The testing for my father’s serum lithium level showed it was at a borderline toxic level at the ER. Hours later, Dad was discharged from ALMH ER the early morning hours of Feb. 26th with the instructions to return if his condition worsened. Dora signed her name and Dad’s name on the release form.
The next day, Feb. 26th, Dad was still concerned about the way he was feeling. Dora left him home alone, for some unknown reason, and went to the office (Dad’s law office). She should never have left him alone under the circumstances. While she was gone, he was frightened and called his primary Lincoln doctor (a woman), who was also concerned because his speech was still slurred. His doctor thought he could have a TIA or a “full-blown stroke” (documented in the doctor’s later deposition). His doctor then called his neurologist in Springfield and relayed her concerns. The neurologist spoke to Dad on the phone. He told her he thought he’d had a stroke. The neurologist scheduled him for an appointment for the following day. Whether my father wanted to return to the ER in Lincoln on the 26th is unknown. Perhaps he did want to return to the ER, for he was definitely alarmed on the 26th about the way he was feeling while home alone in Dora’s absence, and he’d been told to return if there was still concern.
After examining Dad on Feb. 27, 2001, his neurologist admitted him to SMMC for “stroke.” He was not admitted for “back and sciatic pain.” He apparently did have an issue with his back, but that was not the reason he went to Springfield to see his neurologist, and he was never scheduled for back surgery. I don’t know that he really needed it. All along, at both hospitals, the possibility of a stroke was always the main concern. At SMMC, Dora, once again, presented an “RWT Medications” chart to medical personnel.
A CT scan showed Dad had not had a stroke, so no one could really understand what was happening to him. He’d had a stroke years earlier (around ’86) that affected his gait and speech for a while; he had some lingering minor complications, but he’d recovered, for the most part. Dora was FULLY AWARE of all the warning signs and symptoms of stroke, including the importance of getting a person immediate medical attention when warning signs/symptoms are present. With a stroke, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE — the passage of time and getting a person medical attention can mean the difference between life and death.
What we didn’t know, and what most medical professionals didn’t know until after a lawsuit was filed and information and facts began to surface, was that my father was in the process (from the time of April of 2000) of being weaned off lithium. There’s more to this and a phone conversation I had with Dad earlier in 2000 regarding my concerns about him taking lithium for so many years. It was our conversation that prompted him to inevitably see his doctor about being weaned off the drug. The doctor in Springfield agreed that weaning him off lithium was a good idea, and Dad’s dosage started being reduced. Dad’s Lincoln doctor (the woman) didn’t even think he was bipolar or that he should be on lithium. A person has to be weaned off lithium, you can’t just stop taking it cold turkey. My father also knew this, and he acted intelligently and responsibly by seeing his doctor about it. Dad’s medical history showed he always sought the opinions and directions of his doctors — he did not self-doctor himself.
When Dad was admitted to ALMH ER and SMMC, he was in the final phase of being weaned off lithium, altogether. But his lithium dosage on the “RWT Medications” charts, that Dora was handing out, indicated a much higher level of lithium than Dad was supposed to be taking at the time. The lithium dosage she presented on the charts was the dosage he was taking when his doctor first began weaning him off lithium. When Dad entered SMMC, they began giving him the (increased) lithium dosage that Dora had presented on the chart she’d given them . . . back to the dosage he was taking in April 2000. We also discovered that on two different occasions in the months prior to Dad entering the hospitals in Feb. 2001, lithium was being picked up at Lincoln pharmacies (I was told by Dora), and those dosages of the drug were in immediate release powdered capsule form; this was not what Dad was to be taking at the time it was being picked up. Lithium, by the way, looks and tastes exactly like salt.
After the date of March 4, 2001, Dad continued to go downhill at SMMC and become more “restless,” “agitated,” “aphasic,” and “unable to talk and complete sentences” in addition to other symptoms. I spoke to him on March 6th, and he could hardly talk. He sounded like he’d had a stroke, but his neurologist confirmed he had not had one. Dora said they’d taken him off some of his medications. I specifically asked her about his lithium dosage. She told me, “He’s still taking that.” That was all she told me in regard to lithium. She said he wasn’t eating, which alarmed me because when taking lithium it’s really important to maintain proper nutrition and adequate salt and fluid intake. Dora knew this. She knew everything about ALL his medications. I asked her if Dad was on an IV to compensate for the fluids and food he wasn’t ingesting. He wasn’t on an IV, and she’d apparently said nothing to anyone about it. I complained about it myself. That same evening, Dr. Yousuf (a new doctor on the scene) indicated Dad was finally on an IV.
By March 8, 2001, he began having kidney complications, and a renal doctor had become involved. During this time Dad continued to be extremely restless and agitated, and his creatinine level (kidneys) had soared. Dora told me the main objective of all the doctors was “keeping him alive.” I could not understand what was happening. Everything was so alarming, and I was fraught with worry.
On March 9, 2001, Dad’s kidneys were shutting down due to “lithium overdose,” and he was scheduled for emergency dialysis.
On March 10, 2001, Dr. Yousuf told me he was “suffering from acute lithium toxicity” and “very ill.” Yousuf told me they’d taken him off lithium entirely at that point, and they were trying to “flush” the lithium from his system. Later that same afternoon, I spoke to Dora, and she told me they were putting Dad back on dialysis for a second time. Following the second dialysis, he was put on a feeding tube.
Never at any time during all this did Dora tell anyone he was being weaned off lithium by Dr. Woerner in Springfield. When he was going into renal failure, and near death from lithium poisoning, she never said to anyone, “How can that be? He’s being weaned off lithium. In fact, he’s in the final phase of being weaned off of it forever.” Dora said nothing. There is much more that Dora said nothing about – critical information that a loving, caring wife would never withhold from anyone in the best interests of her husband. There were also out-and-out lies told by Dora. There was no justifiable reason for her to withhold the information she withheld or for her to lie about the things she, in fact, lied about.
When I arrived at SMMC on March 14, 2001, there were many suspicious things that occurred during my lengthy stay in IL and my many visits to the hospital. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the symptoms Dad was exhibiting and experiencing after being taken off lithium (such as restlessness, agitation, confusion, hallucination, stupor, aphasia, and many other symptoms) were all adverse symptoms of lithium toxicity/poisoning. Some symptoms of lithium poisoning (but certainly not all) can be mistaken for stroke (particularly “aphasia”), and this, along with his past medical history, was why doctors thought he’d had a stroke.
Dora presented conflicting and false stories and withheld information about the day Dad entered the ER at ALMH and the day he was admitted to SMMC. She presented many conflicting stories and lies about many circumstances surrounding my father’s illness, his hospitalization, and the circumstances leading up to his death at SMMC on May 5, 2001. Dad died the day before, what would have been, his 69th birthday. He had an autopsy on his birthday.
Dora admitted in her July 7, 2004 deposition that when Dad allegedly awakened from a nap on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2001 at either 5 PM or 6 PM (both inconsistent times she’d given in deposition and trial testimony) he couldn’t speak properly. She admitted his symptoms were consistent with the previous stroke he’d had years earlier. She said she was concerned he was having a stroke. She was asked what she did when she thought he was having a stroke. She replied, “We got ready and went to the emergency room at the hospital in Lincoln.” That IS NOT what happened. Even though Dora admitted she thought he was having a stroke, and that she was fully aware of the symptoms of stroke and the urgency involved in seeking medical attention, my father didn’t arrive at the ALMH ER until nearly 11 PM that night. Dad and Dora were living (where she’s still living in Lincoln) in a townhouse just several blocks from the original location of ALMH. DORA NEVER CALLED 911 during those hours that ticked by after she claimed he’d awakened from a nap. So why, when Dora thought he was having a stroke and she KNEW how critical it was to get Dad immediate medical attention, did she WAIT either 4+ or 5+ hours to take him to the hospital? She never told anyone there was a problem getting him to the hospital, and if there had been a problem, SHE SHOULD HAVE PHONED 911 for paramedics!
I conducted a lot of research on lithium and learned a lot. Lithium is excreted through the kidneys, which is one of the reasons why it’s important to maintain proper water/fluid intake while taking it. My father’s serum lithium level was high and borderline toxic upon testing at the ALMH ER. So what was his serum lithium level at around 5 or 6 PM when he’d allegedly awakened from his nap and couldn’t speak and was exhibiting stroke symptoms? I can only assume his serum lithium level was much higher when he supposedly awakened from his nap. Again, lithium is excreted through the kidneys, so OVER TIME the serum lithium level will be reduced. Just days later, after entering ALMH ER, Dad had to undergo emergency dialysis to save his life because his serum lithium level was acutely toxic and shutting down his kidneys. And Dora STILL did not acknowledge or inform ANYONE that he was supposed to be in the final phase of being weaned off lithium. WHY DIDN’T SHE TELL ANYONE THAT?? When he entered SMMC, he was supposed to be taking the lowest (time-released) dosage he’d ever taken of the drug. But Dora just held her tongue and acted like she had no idea what was happening to my father.
There is no specific antidote for lithium poisoning, and post-mortem no characteristic findings of lithium poisoning are visible.
This is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the facts and circumstances pertaining to Dora leading up my father’s hospitalization and death.
The death of Roger Winston Thompson warrants and demands investigation, starting with thorough interrogation and investigation of Dora Voges Thompson.
Truth and Justice,
Bonnie J. Thompson, Investigative Writer/Author
Information contained in “Buried Truth, The Unabridged Trilogy” by Bonnie J. Thompson. Registered Copyrights 2013, 2015, 2017. All rights reserved.