On Feb. 9, Gloria Faison lost a part of herself. Her 67-year-old husband, Tommy, died in the emergency room at Betsy Johnson Regional Hospital in Dunn.
"I just don't have a sense to me that he's dead until I remind myself that he's not here," Gloria said.
Although he stayed active, Faison was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999 and had a history of heart troubles. That afternoon, he went to the emergency room with chest pains.
After checking in around 12:40 p.m., Faison said a triage nurse took her husband's temperature and recorded he had high blood pressure. Then they were sent back to the waiting room where they did just that -- wait.
Faison said while at least two other patients who arrived after them were taken back, her husband's pains worsened.
"He kept saying, 'Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy,'" she said.
Desperate, Faison said she kept asking the nurses for help and met resistance.
"I said you done took two people in front of him. She said, 'Miss, I ain't taking nobody back there. I haven't did nothing,' and she opened up the door and got to hollering and screaming," she said.
Finally, after nearly 2 1/2 hours of waiting, Faison said her husband was wheeled back for an EKG.
"I began to shake him and it was like he was going out, and I said 'Tommy, Tommy, what's the matter?' and so he never did say nothing," she said.
Around 5 p.m., Faison said the attending physician pronounced her husband dead of a massive heart attack.
"I broke down. They let him wait too long in the emergency room, and that's what I was telling them," she said.
When Faison left the emergency room, she was approached by three people in the waiting room. Three strangers offered their condolences and offered to corroborate her version of what happened. Veronica Morrison was one of those strangers.
"I actually thought he was going to fall in (on) the floor dead before anyone showed any concern at all," Morrison said. "I think there are some nurses over there in the wrong profession. I mean I've carried my dog to the vet before and got better attention."
"I think they might possibly could have saved him. I don't think he was done right at all," eyewitness Charles Wrench said.
Complicating the pain, Faison picked up her husband's death certificate a few days later. It had prostate cancer as the cause with ischemic cardiomyopathy or heart disease as a secondary factor.
Tommy Faison's primary care physician, Dr. Manuel Lopez, signed the document. Dr. Lopez also serves as Betsy Johnson's medical director.
"It sounds like a cover-up to me and Dr. Lopez was not in the emergency room when my husband passed," Faison said.
Dr. Lopez claims he knew nothing of the questions over Mr. Faison's care when he signed the document.
"I was not trying to protect the hospital. I was just trying to do my professional duty," Lopez said. "Anytime there's an allegation that concerns me, I want it fully investigated, of course," Lopez said.
Knowing the patient's medical history, he simply felt the cancer was the overriding cause of death.
"He had an overwhelming tumor load from the prostate cancer and that put a stress on his whole body and obviously, that's going to affect the heart," Lopez said.
Faison said her heart is broken, and she is considering legal action against Betsy Johnson.
"Because I don't want anyone else to have to go through what I went through," she said.
Citing patient confidentiality, Betsy Johnson's administrators declined to comment on Mr. Faison's death. The hospital is investigating. State Health and Human Services has also launched an investigation.
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