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X-ray showed enlarged heart of woman who died after waiting hours in ER

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- CBS 58 has obtained the medical examiner's report in the death of Shonna Ward, the Milwaukee woman who died earlier this month after a lengthy wait in the Froedtert Hospital emergency room.

The report says Ward was in the ER for two and a half hours.

Her family says she was never treated.

Ward arrived complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath.

A chest X-ray was given that showed cardiomegaly, an enlarged heart.

Dr. Martha Gulati, the chief of cardiology at the University of Arizona, says Ward's symptoms would be cause for "heightened awareness and concern."

"We do recommend that patients be seen in a very timely fashion...to determine if it's serious or not serious and what the next steps should be," Gulati said. "[Cardiomegaly] can be very serious."

It's unclear from the ME's report what happened after the X-ray, except that Ward decided to leave the ER two and a half hours after she arrived.

She was pronounced dead two hours after that.

"She's like she's not going to wait that long," said Yolanda Ward, Shonna's mother. "She's going to go to another hospital and she didn't make it."

Froedtert Hospital told CBS 58 in a statement, "The family is in our thoughts and has our deepest sympathy. We cannot comment further at this time."

The Ward family says they're meeting with the hospital's president Thursday.

Shonna's memorial service is Wednesday, Jan. 15.

"I just still have not wrapped my mind around it," Yolanda said.

Data from 2017-19 shows that Froedtert ER patients spend an average of 3 hours and 42 minutes there before going home, if they're not admitted.

That's more than an hour longer than the amount of time in the average Wisconsin hospital, which is 2 hours and 22 minutes.

In Ward's case, Gulati says ER staff generally can under-appreciate heart risks in young women.

"Trying to make those judgments is not always the easiest thing in an emergency room," she said.

Without more information, Gulati says it's too early to pass final judgement on what happened.

She added that heart disease is the most common cause of death among women, so she urges women to advocate for themselves if they feel something isn't right.

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