Dan Harkins May 1, 2015, 1:26pm


A late woman's estate is suing over how the last moments of her life were handled by a skilled nursing facility.

Michael William Tersigne, as son and representative of the estate of the late Rose Angeline Byers, filed a lawsuit April 28 in Galveston County District Court against HSMTX/Friendswood, doing business as Friendswood Healthcare Center, citing medical negligence and wrongful death.

According to the complaint, on June 5, 2013, Byers was taken by ambulance to Friendswood Healthcare, 213 E. Heritage Drive, Friendswood, a skilled nursing facility. The 82-year-old had Alzheimer's disease, dementia, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, aspiration pneumonia and dysphagia, the suit says.

The complaint says admission orders stated Byers was to "have continuous feedings of formula through a gastrostomy tube and that the tube was to be checked routinely for residual amounts of formula in the stomach. There is no indication in the initial care plan that respiration precautions were specifically addressed or that prevention guidelines were established such as observation for cough, fever, increased respiratory rate or chest congestion, to prevent respiratory distress."

At 3 p.m. June 6, 2013, the lawsuit continues: "A nurse noted Byers was in her bed with eyes closed and 'breath sound not clear was wheezing and she looks pale. Will continue to monitor.'"

About two hours later, the lawsuit states, "the same nurse documented Byers had elevated blood pressure, a common indication of respiratory failure and a temperature of 102.1. The nurse administered 2 liters of oxygen, elevated the head of Byers' bed and stopped the feeding tube."

The complaint states at 5:45 p.m. another nurse was told Byers was unresponsive. According to the lawsuit, she told her primary nurse to call for an ambulance. After several minutes, the second nurse questioned the status of the ambulance and it was discovered [that] the Byers' primary nurse had called the routine transport line for EMS and not the emergency 911 line. The transport ambulance had given an estimated arrival of one hour from the time they were called. Once discovered that Byers primary nurse called the transport line, the suit says, the second nurse called for an emergency transport and the ambulance arrived to transport Byers to Clear Lake Regional Medical Center within minutes.

After arrival at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, Byers was treated for respiratory failure, severe septic shock, lactic acidosis secondary to aspiration, pneumonia, renal failure and hyperbilirubinemia, the suit says, and despite aggressive treatment at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, Byers died June 8, 2013.

Tersigne seeks monetary relief of between $200,000 and $1 million, plus costs. He is represented by attorney Muhammad S. Aziz of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto and Friend in Houston.

Galveston County District Court case number: 15-CV-0430

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