Curtis Bentley

As told by Curtis’s daughter, Annette Smith

My 65-year-old father, Curtis James J Bentley, underwent successful surgery to place a stent in his heart. He was discharged from the hospital and I was told that he was “100% clear.” While recuperating at home, however, he started bleeding. He was coughing up blood, having nose bleeds and blood was present in his stool and in the toilet.

I took him to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with a lesion in his colon and admitted to ICU. That was on a Friday. I left once on Saturday to get food and clothes in preparation for staying with him the entire weekend if need be.

On Sunday morning, around 4 am, I was awakened and decided to take a much needed break. I stopped at the snack machine, called my husband and sat for a while in the waiting room. Then I heard a Code Blue sound. At first I thought it was for my father, but it was for the neighboring patient. I sat a little while longer, but then I had an uneasy feeling. Something told me to go check on him.

When I walked in, I couldn’t see my father’s face right away. One leg was hanging out of the bed. Embarrassed, I asked him what was he doing, but he did not respond. I asked him a second time as I was covering him up. The TV went to a commercial, and at that moment, the light hit his face which was against the railing. He was positioned like he was trying to get out, perhaps trying to get help. When I looked closer, I saw that my father was taking his last breath. I knew immediately that it was his last breath, because I watched my stepfather die in my arms years ago. Their last breaths were identical.

I ran out calling for help. A nurse came. During this time I’m yelling, “Where were you, where were you? Why wasn’t a code called for him?” She had no answer. I had been in the room with my dad. No nurse had been present. No machine had alerted them to his deteriorating condition.

My father was intubated and placed on life support. I found out by reading his medical records that he had gone into a coma, was brain dead, suffered paralysis and necrosis. No one at the hospital told me that. He was in a coma for seven days and he never came out of it. During those seven days, I talked to my father, because I was told the hearing is the last to go. I called to him. I begged him not to go. It took everything in me to sign the form to take him off life support. My oldest sister and I lay on his chest. My baby sister and my best friend were there giving us much needed support. We had to endure those last breaths, one last time.

My father did not receive timely care and rapid response – I was the one who found him unresponsive and alerted the nurses to his last breath. There were no nurses with him and no monitors that could have alerted them that he was in trouble. Why? If there are 15 patients in ICU, should they go uncared for because the focus is on one patient?

I have asked the hospital and his physicians these and many other questions. But more than four years after his death, they still have not provided this information. I entrusted my father into their care, and they don’t care enough to speak openly and honestly with me about what happened to him. “Deny and defend” is what I have gotten thus far – an additional injury.