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Rustburg woman's off-the-cuff remark about suicide delays needed surgery

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 08:17:38 AM EST
Updated On: Sep 23 2013 08:02:41 PM EDT

Cheryl Tobolt is in need of back surgery. But a comment she says was made in jest has put her surgery in jeopardy.

RUSTBURG, Va. -

Back problems have left Cheryl Tobolt in so much pain, she's hardly able to walk.

"On a scale of one to 10, most days it's an 11 or 12," Tobolt said of her back discomfort.

She's hoping spinal surgery will provide some relief.   Doctors at Centra Health in Lynchburg were supposed to operate a few weeks ago, until Tobolt made a reference to suicide during a pre-surgical appointment.

"I was trying to pinpoint some kind of results," Tobolt explained.  "I asked 'is my pain going to be somewhat alleviated, because if not I would just as soon put a bullet in my brain'."

Tobolt insists her words were made in jest.  Her friend Darlene Collie was with her when she said it.

"When people have pain, excruciating pain, sometimes they say things that they really don't mean," Collie said.

Doctors took the comment seriously.  Tobolt said she was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

"I became very angry," Tobolt said.  "I said I don't understand what you are telling me."

By refusing to be evaluated, Tobolt says doctors refused to operate.

"If I was suicidal, I would not have attended the follow up appointments," said Tobolt.  "I would not have gone to the surgery center.  I wouldn't have done any of the things that I did.  I would have gone in the corner and blown my brains out."

"Five or six words were taken out of context," said Collie.  "Whether she should have said it or not, it was really blown out of proportion."

We asked Centra spokesperson Diane Riley to explain, in general terms, how the company responds to a situation like this.  Riley said she wasn't able to make any specific comments for our story, because doing so would appear that she was talking about Tobolt's case, which would violate privacy laws.

Tobolt is now seeking treatment at a hospital in Charlottesville.