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March 4, 2013 10:15pm PST
Imagine this: You place your beloved mother in a retirement home because her poor health means you’re unable to give her the care she needs. You go to work comforted by the knowledge that she’s in a place where people will respond immediately in case of an emergency. And then you learn that, at Glenwood Gardens retirement home in Bakersfield, California, the nursing staff is barred from doing anything other than calling 911 in case a resident is in distress. That’s how 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless died: a nurse, despite a 911 operator’s frantic urging, refused either to perform CPR on Bayless or to hunt out someone who wasn’t constrained by workplace rules.
The 911 tape makes for horrifying listening. Over the course of seven long minutes, as Bayless’ life trickled away, Tracey Halvorson, the 911 operator, repeatedly begged the nurse to help Bayless, while the nurse, just as repeatedly refused to move a muscle:
“It’s a human being. Is there anybody that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?”
“Um, not at this time.”
Halverson asked again that the nurse or some member of the staff act to save Bayless’ life, but the nurse was adamant. Neither she, nor anyone else at Glenwood Gardens would help the dying woman.
Halverson refused to give up.
“Anybody there can do CPR. Give them the phone please. I understand if your facility is not willing to do that. Give the phone to that passerby. This woman is not breathing enough. She is going to die if we don’t get this started.”
“She’s going to die if we don’t get this started.… I don’t understand why you’re not willing to help this patient.”
Nothing. Well, not quite nothing. The nurse got upset. She can be heard talking to someone in the background and complaining that Halverson is bothering her:
“She’s yelling at me, and saying we have to have one of our residents perform CPR. I’m feeling stressed, and I’m not going to do that, make that call.”
Finally, when Halverson asked the nurse if she was just going to let the woman die, the nurse took umbrage at that suggestion. “That’s why we called 911,” she said.
It truly shocks the conscience that a nurse could hide so completely behind a bureaucratic mandate that she would not only stand there watching a woman under her care die, but she would also complain that the whole experience was causing her (the nurse) to “feel stressed.”
Contact the Nursing Home that Refused to Perform CPR:
Glenwood Gardens Nursing Home