Despite a high blood pressure reading in triage and complaints about chest pains, Tommy Faison, 67, was left untreated in the waiting room of Betsy Johnson Regional Hospital in Dunn for over two hours.
Shortly after he was taken back, Faison's heart stopped.
"I broke down. They let him wait too long in the emergency room and that's what I was telling them," said Gloria Faison, Tommy's wife.
Strangers in the waiting room backed her story.
"I actually thought he was going to fall on the floor dead before anyone showed any concern at all," witness Veronica Morrison said.
A state report prompted by a WRAL investigation also found hospital staffers waited too long to help Tommy Faison.
"And it shouldn't have happened," said Raleigh attorney Hardy Lewis.
Lewis now represents Gloria Faison and has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Betsy Johnson Health Care Systems.
"Even if they had waited 15 minutes or 30 minutes, had they taken him back then, we think a jury would find that yes, he would have survived," Lewis said.
Last year, Gloria Faison conceded a lawsuit could not bring back her husband, but she hoped it might make a difference in care.
"Because I don't want anyone else to have to go through what I went through," she said.
Since this is a legal matter, Betsy Johnson administrators declined to comment on the Faison case.
Hospital president Al Taylor released the following statement:
"We have instituted a number of improvements that will enhance the manner in which we handle the approximately 25,000 annual visits to our emergency room. One of those is having a patient advocate available during high volume hours to be a liaison between patients, their families and the hospital and to monitor their condition."