Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson’s family blames death on ‘medical negligence’ inside Baylor Scott & White … – WFAA.com

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Eddie Bernice Johnson, a longtime representative of North Texas in the U.S. House, died Sunday, Dec. 31, at 89.

DALLAS — Christmas Day was the last day Kirk Johnson spoke with his mother, former North Texas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. “She thought that she wouldn’t live three weeks and she didn’t,” Kirk said.

Johnson, a longtime representative of North Texas in the U.S. House, died Sunday, Dec. 31, at 89. 

“It’s just a nightmare that you wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through,” said Les Weisbrod, Miller Weisbrod Olesky LLP. Weisbrod is the Johnson family’s attorney.

That nightmare began September 21, two weeks after the former Congresswoman had back surgery, her family says. 

Kirk said he was supposed to meet with his mother’s case worker at Baylor Scott and White Institute for Rehabilitation. 

“Before I got there, she’d called me and said that she needed help. She couldn’t get anybody to respond to the button that calls the nurse,” he said.

When he arrived, he said his mother was still waiting for assistance. 

“Deplorable. She was being unattended to. She was screaming out in pain and for help,” said Kirk.

“Unfortunately, she was left in her own feces,” said Weisbrod. 

He believes the former Congresswoman had been in that state for at least an hour. 

Kirk Johnson says he ultimately found the Institute for Rehabilitation’s CEO, David Smith, in the administration office on the first floor. When Smith and Kirk Johnson arrived back at the longtime Congresswoman’s room, Kirk said nurses were cleaning up the feces.

He said he was also told by another staff member that the nurses were in training. 

“I think it’s ironic for a registered nurse who is a member of the Academy of Nurses to have been treated that way,” said Kirk.

Later that evening, Kirk Johnson says he received a voicemail from the case manager stating, “My deepest apology for the situation that mom was in. There are no words to be honest with you. All I know is that her tech that was assigned was with another patient.”

According to a press release, Smith acknowledged the incident “shouldn’t have happened,” though the incident was not mentioned in her rehab records.

The family alleged in the press release that Eddie Bernice Johnson sitting in feces led to an infection of a surgery wound she had. The release said lab culture reports on the wound “came back showing organisms directly related to feces,” leading to Johnson getting transferred to intensive care.

Eddie Bernice Johnson was later moved to a skilled nursing facility in October until she went into hospice care at home on Dec. 18, her family says.

The family’s attorney said Johnson had to undergo additional surgeries receiving antibiotics, cleaning out the infection, removing hardware from the initial surgery and replacing it. 

“That’s a very complex difficult surgery to go through twice particularly for someone at Eddie Bernice’s age,” said Weisbrod. 

The family is alleging that ‘medical negligence’ led to her death this past weekend, according to a news release issued Thursday.

Her family is now alleging an infection developed during a rehabilitation stay at the Baylor Scott & White Institute of Rehabilitation led to her death. 

A copy of the former Congresswoman’s death certificate shared at a Thursday press conference lists the cause of her death as osteomyelitis of the lumbar spine. Osteomyelitis is an infection in a bone, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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The allegations were outlined in a Thursday news release from Kirk Johnson and Weisbrod.

Weisbrod sent a pre-lawsuit notice to Baylor Scott & White Health System and the Institute for Rehabilitation.

In a statement in response to the allegations, a Baylor Scott & White Health spokesperson said, “Congresswoman Johnson was a longtime friend and champion in the communities we serve—she is an inspiration to all. We are committed to working directly with the Congresswoman’s family members and their counsel. Out of respect for patient privacy, we must limit our comments.”

The release issued Thursday noted that the rehab facility is owned and operated by Select Medical Holdings Corp. in Pennsylvania but carries the Baylor Scott & White name.

The relationship between Select Medical Holdings and Baylor Scott & White was unclear. Select Medical released a statement, saying, “Out of respect for patient privacy, we have no comment at this time.”

“She had no reason to not have been here. If she had gotten proper care at that facility, she would be here today,” said Kirk Johnson. 

In the release, Kirk Johnson said, “The name Baylor indicates a certain level of professionalism and the nursing staff and management fall far below a standard of medical care, especially in this situation.”

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The pre-lawsuit notice for medical negligence is a requirement by Texas law. It gives a 60-day waiting period to allow any resolutions prior to an actual lawsuit. 

“The law is the law. It’s a terrible law. This is an illustration of how unfair that law is that a person like Eddie Bernice Johnson, who dedicated her life to the service of others and was really an American hero. There’s a cap at $250,000, plus the other medical bills,” said Weisbrod. “She knew what happened to her. We discussed it. She asked me to pursue a case for her weeks ago.” 

Weisbrod said he’s hopeful about a possible resolution.

As for the law, Weisbrod said Congresswoman Johnson, who retired last year after more than 30 years serving in the U.S. House, was against that particular legislation. 

“I think she would be happy if all of this that happened to her helped change that law,” said Weisbrod. “Anybody who knew congresswoman knew that she worked to build consensus. She liked to have always a peaceful resolution of any conflict, but she was going to stand up for her rights.”

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