As a certified nursing assistant for more than 20 years, Pam McCord was living a dream.
“I enjoy what I do. It’s my passion. I love caring for others,” she told WRAL Investigates.
That dream turned into a nightmare on April 2 when she tried to help a patient at the Cypress of Raleigh nursing home.
“As I lifted up on him, I believe I pulled a muscle,” McCord said.
McCord went to get checked out at FastMed Urgent Care on Millbrook Avenue as a workers’ compensation precaution. The process included more than just an examination of McCord’s back.
“She told me we’re going to have to do a drug test and I said, ‘that’s fine,'” McCord said.
A few days later came the phone call that shocked McCord.
“They stated to me that my drug test tested positive for cocaine,” McCord said. “I was just blown away at that moment. I said that’s not my urine test.”
McCord feels there must have been a mistake.
“In my entire life, I never used drugs,” McCord said. “I said, ‘something is wrong. Something is not right.’
“I said, ‘please help me in this situation.'”
But WRAL Investigates found, the power is with employers, not employees when it comes to drug test results. Citing policy, Cypress immediately fired McCord, taking her health insurance and benefits.
“At that point, I was just lost,” she said.
McCord questioned FastMed and the Virginia-based lab Alere, where the test was conducted. They stand by the result.
A week later, she got a hair follicle test, which is generally considered more accurate than a urine test and detects drug use over a longer period of time. It came back negative. Her former employer, Cypress, wasn’t moved even as they have hiring signs on the building.
“It may have been a complete different urine sample,” claims attorney Desmond Andrade.
McCord hired Andrade to help investigate the testing process and handling of the test specimen. To further bolster her case, Andrade sent McCord to get another hair follicle a month later. The extra time allowed more hair to grow, which would increase the likelihood of detecting cocaine if McCord used the drug. Again, the test came back negative.
McCord says the only drug in her system was an appetite pill. While there are plenty of common medicines that could lead to false-positive drug test results, there are not many substances known to mimic cocaine.
Per state law and lab policy, the sample was tested again to confirm the positive. The result was the same. Andrade still questions the entire process.
“But, still there’s been no action, no second testing on their own dime, any checks and balances to make sure that they actually got an accurate result, and that, once again, is extremely disappointing,” Andrade said.
As McCord explores legal action, she’s most worried about restoring her good name.
“My character was ruined, my reputation,” McCord said.
McCord is also serving a warning to others who may question a drug test.
“I don’t want to see no one go through …. the pain I had to go through,” McCord said. “You fight for what’s right, and that’s why I’m trying to get my story out there.”