As 89-year-old James Dempsey – who served his country during World War II – lay on his death bed, gasping for air, and calling for help, staff at the Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation could ignore and laugh.
This took place in 2014 but video of what happened has only recently been uncovered.
When the dying vet finally became unresponsive, now-former nursing supervisor Wanda Nuckles appeared and only after being notified by another Nurse. She began doing CPR and continued to do so until paramedics arrived — so she says.
The camera, however, tells a whole other story.
“Sir, that was an honest mistake,” Nuckles when confronted with video footage during the deposition. “I was just basing everything on what I normally do.”
“In 43 years in nursing, I have never seen such disregard for human life in a healthcare setting, is what I witnessed,” said Elaine Harris, a retired nursing professor.
In the video deposition, former nursing supervisor Wanda Nuckles tells the family’s attorney, Mike Prieto, how she rushed to Dempsey’s room when a nurse alerted her he had stopped breathing.
Prieto: “From the time you came in, you took over doing chest compressions…correct?”
Nuckles : “Yes.”
Prieto: “Until the time paramedics arrive, you were giving CPR continuously?”
Nuckles : “Yes.”
The video, however, shows no one doing CPR when Nuckles entered the room. She also did not immediately start doing CPR.
“Sir, that was an honest mistake,” said Nuckles in the deposition. “I was just basing everything on what I normally do.”
The video shows the veteran calling for help six times before he goes unconscious while gasping for air. State records show nursing home staff found Dempsey unresponsive at 5:28 am. It took almost an hour for the staff to call 911 at 6:25a.m.
When a different nurse does respond, she fails to check any of his vital signs. Nuckles says she would have reprimanded the nurse for the way she responded to Dempsey. She called the video “sick.”
When nurses had difficulty getting Dempsey’s oxygen machine operational during, you can hear Nuckles and others laughing.
Prieto: “Ma’am, was there something funny that was happening?”
Nuckles : “I can’t even remember all that as you can see.”
11Alive showed the video to Elaine Harris, a retired nursing professor and expert in adult critical care. “In 43 years in nursing, I have never seen such disregard for human life in a healthcare setting, is what I witnessed,” said Harris.
Harris says she identified several violations of care in the video, including failure to respond, failure to assess and failure to act.
In the video, nursing staff repeatedly start and stop doing CPR on Dempsey. Harris says once you start doing CPR, it should not be stopped until a doctor makes the decision not to resuscitate.
“That is absolutely inappropriate. You never stop compressions,” said Harris.
Dempsey’s family declined to be interviewed due to a settlement agreement recently reached with the nursing home.
State health inspection records show Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation continued to have a history of problems after Dempsey’s death. Medicare records show the nursing home facility was cited at least two dozen times for serious health and safety violations, including “immediate jeopardy” levels, the worst violation. Medicare withdrew one payment and the facility has been fined $813,113 since 2015.