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Veteran dies of treatable illness as COVID fills hospital beds, leaving doctors “playing musical chairs”

When U.S. Army veteran Daniel Wilkinson began feeling sick final week, he went to the hospital in Bellville, Texas, exterior Houston. His well being drawback wasn’t associated to COVID-19, however Wilkinson wanted superior care, and with the coronavirus filling up intensive care beds, he could not get it in time to avoid wasting his life.

“He loved his country,” his mom, Michelle Puget, instructed “CBS This Morning” lead nationwide correspondent David Begnaud. “He served two deployments in Afghanistan, came home with a Purple Heart, and it was a gallstone that took him out.”

Last Saturday, Wilkinson’s mom rushed him to Bellville Medical Center, simply three doorways down from their house.

But for Wilkinson, assist was nonetheless too far-off.

Army veteran Daniel Wilkinson.

CBS News

Belville emergency room doctor Dr. Hasan Kakli handled Wilkinson, and found that he had gallstone pancreatitis, one thing the Belville hospital wasn’t outfitted to deal with.

“I do labs on him, I get labs, and the labs come back, and I’m at the computer, and I have one of those ‘Oh, crap’ moments. If that stone doesn’t spontaneously come out and doesn’t resolve itself, that fluid just builds up, backs up into the liver, backs up into the pancreas, and starts to shut down those organs. His bloodwork even showed that his kidneys were shutting down.”

Kakli instructed Begnaud that his affected person was dying proper in entrance of him. Wilkinson wanted a better stage of care, however with hospitals throughout Texas and far of the South overwhelmed with COVID sufferers, there was no place for him.

Kakli recalled making a number of cellphone calls to different amenities, solely to get rather a lot of, “sorry … sorry … sorry,” in reply. Places had the specialists to do the process, however as a result of of how sick he was Wilkinson wanted intensive care, and so they did not have an ICU mattress to place him in. 

“Then I’m at my computer and, I’m just like, scratching my head, and I get this thought in my head: I’m like, ‘What if I put this on Facebook or something, maybe somebody can help out?’ One doctor messaged me: ‘Hey, I’m in Missouri. Last time I checked, we have ICU beds. We can do this, call this number.’ The next guy messages me, he’s a GI specialist, he goes, ‘I’m in Austin. I can do his procedure, get him over.’ I said, ‘Okay great, let’s go.’ He texts me back five minutes later: ‘I’m sorry. I can’t get administrative approval to accept him, we’re full.’”

Emergency room doctor Dr. Hasan Kakli. 

CBS News

For practically seven hours Wilkinson waited in an ER mattress at Belville.

“I had that thought in my head: ‘I need to get his mother here right now,’” Kakli stated. “I said, ‘If he doesn’t get this procedure done, he is going to die.’ 

“I additionally needed to have the dialogue with him. ”Dan,’ I stated, ‘in case your coronary heart stops in entrance of me proper right here, what would you like me to do? Do you need me to do the whole lot we are able to to resuscitate you and attempt to get your coronary heart again? If that had been to occur, Dan, if I had been to get you again, we’re nonetheless in that position we’re in proper now.’”

“He stated, ‘I wish to discuss to my mother about that,’” Kakli instructed CBS News.

Finally, a mattress opened up on the V.A. hospital in Houston. It was a helicopter experience away.

Kakli recalled Wilkinson saying, “Oh, man, I promised myself after Afghanistan I would never be in a helicopter again! … Oh, well, I guess.”

Wilkinson was airlifted to Houston, however it was too late.

“They weren’t able to do the procedure on him because it had been too long,” his mom instructed Begnaud. “They] told me that they had seen air pockets in his intestines, which means that they were already starting to die off. They told me that I had to make a decision, and I knew how Danny felt; he didn’t want to be that way. And, so, we were all in agreement that we had to let him go.”

Roughly 24 hours after he walked into the emergency room, Daniel Wilkinson died on the age of 46.

Kakli instructed Begnaud that if it weren’t for the COVID disaster, the process for Wilkinson would have taken half-hour, and he’d have been again out the door.  

“I’ve never lost a patient from this diagnosis, ever,” Kakli stated. “We know what needs to be done and we know how to treat it, and we get them to where they need to go. I’m scared that the next patient that I see is someone that I can’t get to where they need to get to go.

“We are enjoying musical chairs, with 100 folks and 10 chairs,” he said. “When the music stops, what occurs? People from all around the world come to Houston to get medical care and, proper now, Houston cannot take care of sufferers from the subsequent city over. That’s the fact.”

As of final night time, there have been 102 folks ready for an ICU mattress within the higher Houston space.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo instructed Begnaud that she was ready to open a area hospital, however as of Friday morning, hospitals within the Houston space had been telling her they’d additional beds — however not sufficient nurses. Seven hundred nurses arrived final week, however it’s nonetheless not sufficient to satisfy the demand.