Woman complained of `hurt neck,' inquest hears
Wife mentioned pain just after trip to chiropractor
Peter Small
Staff Reporter
Six days before Lana Dale Lewis was admitted to hospital with a debilitating stroke, she complained to her husband that her chiropractor had hurt her by reaching over and cracking her neck in an unusual way, an inquest into her death has been told.

"She said, `He hurt my neck,'" Jim Sweeney, her spouse of 12 years, testified yesterday as he recalled how she stopped as they walked back from the chiropractor's office on Aug. 26, 1996 and reached up to rub her neck.

The 45-year-old mother of three was admitted to Queensway General Hospital on Sept. 1, after suffering a stroke. She was released Sept. 6 but collapsed of another stroke four days later and was readmitted. She was pronounced dead Sept. 12.

There has been conflicting evidence suggesting the cause of Lewis' death. Some point to an artery in her neck splitting, which is almost invariably and precipitously accompanied by excruciating neck pain. Other evidence points to her ongoing health problems for the cause of death.

Lewis, who had been visiting Etobicoke chiropractor Philip Emanuele for recurring migraines, had never complained about neck pain before that day, Sweeney told crown counsel Tom Schneider.

Later that evening and for the rest of the week, Lewis, who rarely complained about her health, kept reaching up and rubbing the left side of the back of her neck, Sweeney said. She told him their chiropractor in an unusual move had cracked her neck by reaching over the examining table rather than walking around like he normally did, he said.

"`That's when he hurt me,'" Sweeney recalled her saying.

The day after the chiropractic visit, Lewis developed a "blinding migraine" and stayed home from her factory job for at least two days that week, Sweeney said.

This contradicts previous testimony from Lewis' supervisor at Glaxo Wellcome, Joan Snow, who said she was at work that whole week.

On Saturday night, Lewis got up from bed and walked as though the "floor was invisible." She was holding on to furniture and the walls to get around, Sweeney said. Soon she couldn't get up at all and he rushed her to the hospital in a taxi.

"She had all the expressions of a deer in the headlights. She was very very confused, dumbfounded," he said.

Tim Danson, lawyer for the Canadian Chiropractic Association and Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, asked Sweeney why in a Feb. 14, 1997 letter to the coroner's office only five months after her death he referred to her neck pain as having occurred after a chiropractic visit on Aug. 13, almost three weeks before her admission to hospital.

Sweeney replied that he wasn't clear about dates at the time, so he asked for a printout of her appointments from the chiropractor's office as guidance. When he saw the Aug. 13 appointment, and a follow-up booking set for three days later, he picked those dates because they seemed to fit.

Danson pointed out that this and another letter written shortly after the first when Sweeney's memory was relatively fresh use dates consistent with evidence showing she was off sick from work much of the week of Aug. 13 with migraines, nausea and dizziness. Danson suggested these letters are likely to be more accurate than his later, revised version that puts her neck complaints as starting Aug. 26.

Sweeney said he now realizes her neck pain couldn't have started Aug. 13, adding that he was "a wreck" with grief when he wrote the letters.

Sweeney admitted to Danson that he "embellished" the degree of her drinking and falsely stated she still used marijuana when giving information on an organ donation form for his spouse. Sweeney said other family members wanted her organs donated, but "I just couldn't let go" and hoped that by exaggerating such health drawbacks, fewer of her organs would be thought fit for use.

Danson read out portions of the records of Dr. Harvey Knapp, their family doctor, that referred to Sweeney as being a nice guy with a bad temper who had abused Lewis, and that police had been called to the home.

Sweeney denied he had ever struck her, but admitted the marriage had occasional problems.

The inquest continues.

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