Woman blames nursing home for father's death

By Cara Bailey | Mar 1, 2007

CHARLESTON - A Kanawha County woman has filed suit against the health care facility that took care of her father, claiming he died because of malpractice he incurred while staying there.

Debra Sticklen, on behalf of her late father, James Thomas, filed a suit Feb. 23 in Kanawha Circuit Court, against Genesis Health Ventures of West Virginia, which owns and operates Valley Center Facility in South Charleston.

The suit says Thomas was admitted to Genesis Health Care on May 10, 2002, for "deterioration of his mental status secondary to trauma associated with a prior motor vehicle accident."

The suit states several incidents during his stay ultimately caused his health decline and death.

In June 2005, Thomas experienced a malfunction of his penile prosthesis, which had inflated. Nurses were unable to deflate it, which left the implant erect for nine days.

"Only when Mr. Thomas's penis became black and the family begged nursing staff to contact a physician was Mr. Thomas sent to the Emergency Room at Thomas Memorial Hospital where his penis was deflated," the suit says.

He has the same problem again in July 2005. After that, Thomas began experiencing abdominal pain and developed a fever. The suit says the nurses allowed him to lay in bed for two weeks with a fever and in pain before he was taken to the ER.

"This event led to a downward spiral of Mr. Thomas's condition and he developed a bleeding ulcer, which resulted in multiple transfusions and pyloroplasty surgery to repair the ulcer," the suit says.

A further exam showed Thomas has multiple ventral erosions from pressure of a catheter that had been left in Thomas's body for three weeks at the nursing home, which caused a severe urinary tract infection, the suit says.

On Aug. 15, 2005, surgery was performed to remove the penile implant, and a white foreign body about six inches long, appeared in the bladder, which was part of the foley catheter that had been sheared off.

On Sept. 24, 2005, Thomas fell out of his wheelchair when he was left unattended and was left lying beside his wheelchair for about one hour.

On March 28, 2006, Thomas fell while unattended and broke his hip, and was unable to perform the necessary physical therapy because of his strength. The suit states due to inactivity, he began rubbing his foot against the bed, trying to get out, which caused a pin to break in his ankle, and his foot turned black and necrotic.

"As the result of the substandard care that Mr. Thomas received, he died from a Stage IV Decubitus ulcer on his ankle," the suit says. "The wound was left untreated and resulted in his death from a systemic infection."

The suit says the care Thomas received was well below the standard of care for nursing home facilities and resulted in his death.

Sticklen, through her attorney Shawna Pinkerton, seeks full compensation for everything the family went through, plus punitive damages.

The case has been assigned to Judge Irene Berger.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-343

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