Kaloni Bolton, 12, suffered a severe asthma attack and died waiting for care at a busy medical clinic — and now her family wants answers.
On Dec. 29, 2020, Kaloni called her mother, Kristina Williams, and told her that she was having a hard time breathing — a symptom of an asthma attack, which was not uncommon for Kaloni.
Williams was not with Kaloni and was unable to take her to receive medical attention. Kaloni’s 24-year-old sister took her to Renton Family Urgent Care.
Kaloni and her sister arrived at the Renton Family Urgent Care clinic and told staff that she was experiencing distressed breathing consistent with an asthma attack. The staff told Kaloni’s older sister that they did not have a respiratory specialist and turned Kaloni away before referring her to North Benson Urgent Care.
Upon arriving at North Benson Urgent Care and checking in with staff, Kaloni and her sister were told to wait in their car before their turn to receive attention from a health care provider. They waited in the car for a half-hour without receiving attention. Kaloni’s older sister contacted Williams out of concern to explain the situation.
Williams was confused, as Kaloni had been a patient at the clinic for over 10 years. Williams said typically, during one of Kaloni’s asthma attacks, she would be given an Albuterol nebulizer, a common treatment for asthma symptoms.
According to Williams, over an hour had gone by before any health care providers attended to or even checked on Kaloni.
“No one came out,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kaloni’s breathing difficulties grew worse.
Kaloni used her sister’s phone to call her mother. Williams said her daughter sounded highly distressed as Kaloni told her mother she couldn’t breathe and she “had no air.”
At this point, Williams was on her way to the clinic.
Panicked by Kaloni’s escalating symptoms, her older sister took her into the waiting room and pleaded to the staff for help.
Kaloni became highly distressed as she struggled to breathe. A staff member brought out an oxygen tank for Kaloni, something that Williams said was not a typical treatment for an asthma attack in her experience with Kaloni’s asthma.
The oxygen tank was not initially working for Kaloni as she continued to struggle for air. Eventually, Kaloni turned pale and lost consciousness in the waiting room lobby.
Kaloni’s sister pleaded for someone to check Kaloni’s pulse as she lay unconscious in the lobby. She then called different family members to explain the worrisome situation.
Eventually, a doctor came in to give Kaloni CPR before an ambulance was called.
Williams said she and Kaloni’s father arrived at the clinic as Kaloni was being taken away on a stretcher. She was unresponsive.
Kaloni later passed away at Valley Medical Center.
Williams said a typical Albuterol nebulizer treatment would help Kaloni recover from an asthma attack in about 30 minutes.
“I put faith in this clinic,” Williams said. “They didn’t do the proper treatment for an asthma patient.”
Since Kaloni’s passing, community members have gathered in support for her family. On March 21, a march and candlelight memorial was held in Renton to honor Kaloni’s life.
Williams said she was overjoyed by the abundance of community support and the outrage that the community shared in her child’s tragic death in a place that promises “urgent” health care.
“It meant a lot to me,” Williams said. “They felt the same pain I felt seeing medical professionals acting negligently.”
Now, Williams is trying to raise awareness of the healthcare tragedy that left her daughter struggling to breathe without care.
“As a mother, this is unacceptable,” she said. “It is not a pain any parent should go through.”
North Benson Urgent Care and Valley Medical Center spokesperson Liz Nolan said patient treatment and triage priorities are made on a case by case basis, and investigations are being made into the incident.
“Whenever an unanticipated outcome occurs, we undertake a comprehensive review to assess whether errors occurred, determine if there are gaps in our process and learn everything we can as we seek continuous improvement. Internal and independent investigations are being conducted in Kaloni’s case because of the devastatingly unfortunate outcome. Because of allegations made by the family, we have also taken action to assess whether race was in any way implicated in the care provided,” Nolan wrote.
Williams believes Kaloni is gone because of the circumstances created by the clinic and its staff.
“Kaloni had a lot to look forward to,” she said.
Williams hopes Kaloni will be remembered as a bright, loving girl and a friend to many. Kaloni played the violin, did ballet and gymnastics, and was a role model and a young leader. Her mother said she was excited to begin middle school and was looking forward to college.
“There is no one like Kaloni,” Williams said. “She was really an angel, beautiful inside and out.”
Below is a statement issued by Valley Medical Center in response to Kaloni’s death:
This story originally appeared in the Bothell-Kenmore Reporter, a sister publication to The Herald.