Clarksburg West Virginia
It was 1:55 a.m. and Felix Kirk McDermott was struggling to breathe.
He was cold and clammy. A doctor called to his bedside at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, noted white foam oozing from the 82 year olds mouth and crackling sound coming from his lungs. McDermotts heart was racing and his pupils were pinpoints.
Seemingly out of the blue, The Vietnam veterans blood sugar plummeted dangerously to one with the level that triggers urgent treatment, medical records show.
The dramatic decline could have been a significant clue since McDermott was not diabetic. But I was not recognized as such in the early morning hours of April 9, 2018
It was just one string of oversights at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center that risked and may have cost other veterans lives. Now, those missed opportunities limit the evidence available to prosecutors as they seek to build a criminal case.
Family members said investigators told them they are focusing on a person of interest who may have killed as many as 10 patients in 11 months by injecting them with insulin.
“When someone has intention to do harm in these settings, they will take advantage of any loopholes, any opportunities to exploit the system,” said Elizabeth Yardley, a criminology professor at Birmingham City University in England, who has studied nurses convicted of murder. “It can be an investigative nightmare”
Hospital spokesman Wesley Walls said officials notified authorities immediately upon discovering these serious allegations and put safeguards in place to ensure the safety of each and every one of their patients. The person has been removed from patient care.
Events before and after Mcdermotts death suggest numerous lapses in medical diligence.
Nurses quickly began treating his symptoms, giving him glucose. But medical records do not indicate that anyone ordered a blood test that could have detected unprescribed insulin investigators suspect coursed through his veins killing him.
After he died, no one at the hospital ordered an autopsy despite the mysterious drop in blood sugar.
Insulin on Ward wasn’t adequately tracked, so there was no easy way to tell whether any was missing that night, employees said. In fact, they said insulin was routinely left unsecured, violating the hospitals own policies. Complicating matters further, Unit 3A had no video surveillance to document the movement of it’s insulin or it’s employees.
McDermott was the second of the three men to die under similiar circumstances over 3 Days. Yet no one tipped off authorities that something was missing for two and a half months, even as the death toll continued to climb on the same Ward in the same way.
McDermott suffered from dementia, so confustion might have been hard to diagnose. But his heart was racing and when his daughter arrived at his bedside before Dawn, she found him drifting in and out of consciousness
He was the only patient near the end of the hallway on the third floor medical surgical unit known as 3A.
For 4 hours, his blood sugar fluctuated out of control. Nursing staff checked it every 15 minutes his records show. When they gave him glucose, it shot up and then tanked again.
“You had like a couple minutes that he’d talk to you, then he’d be back like he was sleeping. His daughter Melanie Proctor recalled. Sometimes, you could give his arm a shake or you know, Hey Dad, are you going to talk to us? And sometimes he would and other times he wouldn’t.”
VA Inspector General Michael Missal has said his office is working with the FBI and Department of Justice to investigate potential wrongdoing resulting in patient deaths at the hospital. His office declined to provide any details, as have the FBI and the Department of Justice saying they want to protect the integrity of the investigation.
Family members interviewed by investigators said they were told a person of interest may have been responsible for injecting the insulin that killed as many as 10 people on Unit 3A, that was confirmed by someone familiar with the investigation. The deaths under investigation span the last half of 2017 through July 2018.
Personal injury attorney Tony O’dell stated that “These guys were dying the exact same way, one after another, and it’s inconceivable that the hospital staff wouldn’t recognize the pattern and prevent the next one.”
But pinpointing where the insulin came from will be challenging.