Afghanistan veteran Daniel Wilkinson, 46, of Houston, Texas, died last Sunday after waiting seven hours for an ICU bed for gallstone pancreatitis, a normally treatable condition.
“There wasn’t anything I could do to help him,” mom Michelle Puget said through tears in a KPRC 2 TV News report. “I think that’s the one thing that hurts me the most.”
Wilkinson, who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, took care of his mother as she battled breast cancer in recent years, fell ill on last Saturday and went to a hospital emergency room down the road from their home in Bellville, outside of the city, the report said.
He was diagnosed with gallstone pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas which can be caused by gallstones blocking the bile ducts in the organ, according to WebMD.
The condition, which can be life threatening in severe cases, is usually treatable with medicine or gallbladder removal.
If left untreated, however, severe cases can result in the shutting down of other organs, which happened in Wilkinson’s case as he waited for seven hours in the emergency room for a bed in the ICU, the station reported.
“The doctor was trying to find him an ICU bed,” Puget told KPRC 2. “He said ‘we have been refused so far.’ He said, ‘we have called Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Colorado.’”
Wilkinson’s treating physician at Bellville Medical Center, Hasan Kakli, told “CBS This Morning” that his facility was not equipped to preform the procedure that would have likely saved Wilkinson’s life.
According to the station, a hospital in Colorado eventually said they could take him, as well as the Houston Veterans Administration Hospital in Houston.
Despite rushing to get him to the accepting hospital by helicopter, his organs began to fail, and he died an hour and a half later.
“I think the doctors did everything they could once they got him,” said Puget. “But…it had been [seven] hours. And it’s something that needed to be taken care of right away.”
Wilkinson leaves behind siblings, a nephew, his pets, and his girlfriend, who is currently hospitalized with the COVID-19 virus.
“She’s not doing very well, especially that Danny is gone,” Puget said. “I think they would have gotten married.”
According to The Hill, as of Thursday there were 13,932 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the state, but only 356 ICU beds available.
"He loved his country," Puget told CBS. "He served two deployments over in Afghanistan, came home with a purple heart, and it was a gallstone that took him out."
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