Vet Leaves Behind Fight to Improve Nursing Home Conditions - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NC5 Investigates: Veterans Home

Vet Leaves Behind Fight to Improve Nursing Home Conditions

(Story created: 7/7/06)

A former Marine was laid to rest Friday, but his daughter said he died too soon. An exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation first raised questions about the care that David Lawson received inside the Tennessee State Veterans Home.

Health inspectors found numerous problems inside the Murfreesboro nursing home after the story aired.

What happened to Lawson became the subject of a criminal investigation. Authorities want to know if that neglect killed him or just added to his pain.

"He just opened his eyes, and he started talking, and he just said: ‘Take me home. Take me home,'" his daughter, Karla Lawson, said during his funeral service.

"Daddy was such a fighter."

When Lawson died Monday, the 66-year-old former Marine left behind a fight for better conditions.

"Daddy hadn't been washed. He hadn't been turned," Karla Lawson said when NewsChannel 5 first met her. The daughter first shared their story with NewsChannel 5 last month and then with state lawmakers who heard of the severe bedsores he'd developed.

"They informed me maggots had been found in one of his wounds," Lawson told a legislative committee. "We saw dad's wound as it was so deep you could stick your fist into it."

State inspectors then found that David Lawson's experience at the state-run nursing home in Murfreesboro wasn't unique. In fact, the state wrote up the home for a lengthy list of critical problems.

The state's top concern was that nine out of 14 randomly-picked residents had severe to extreme bedsores, just like David Lawson.

Medical examiner Dr. Bruce Levy's office did an autopsy on Lawson and said it may be hard to tell whether neglect played a role in his death.

"It's not a clear cut thing where there's a line in the sand, where you are on one side of the line and it's not neglect, and the other side of the line, and it's clearly neglect," Levy said.

NewsChannel 5 has learned that two of the nine patients with the extreme bedsores died soon after.

Again, it was not clear whether neglect was a factor.

"It sounds very fishy to me," patient's daughter Jessica Chapman Baldwin said.

Baldwin said she believes it at least played a small role. She, too, shared concerns at last month's legislative hearing about her own father's treatment at the veterans home.

"I start to think: ‘What's going to happen to dad now?" Baldwin said.

Those who knew and loved David Lawson vowed that his fight to fix the nursing home's problems won't die with him

The state health department has now has lifted an order that prevented the veterans home from accepting new patients.

This was after the staff there came up with a plan to improve conditions.

The nursing home said it has purchased specially-designed pillows to prevent bed sores. It said it would retrain nurses to identify and treat wounds.

It will revise its policies and procedures on wound care and has hired a certified wound care nurse to improve the care of the bedsores.

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