Retired Iowa school superintendent with sepsis dies after waiting 15 days for hospital bed due to Covid surge

‘It’s infuriating that people who are not vaccinated are clogging it up,’ man’s daughter says

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 28 December 2021 20:25
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A retired Iowa school superintendent died from sepsis after he was unable to find a bed in a larger hospital facility due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dale Weeks, 78, was diagnosed with sepsis, which is a dangerous blood-borne infection, in late November. According to the Des Moines Register, Mr Weeks could not find a hospital bed in a larger hospital facility, so he was admitted at a smaller hospital.

He first began feeling ill near the beginning of November, but thought he was just experiencing the side effects of a coronavirus booster shot or the flu. However, upon seeking medical help, he was diagnosed with sepsis and eventually was admitted to a smaller hospital.

The smaller hospital's staff called larger facilities for hours hoping to find a bed for Mr Weeks, but the closest available bed was in Illinois. The next day he was taken to the MercyOne hospital in Newton, about 80 miles north of the Centreville hospital where he was initially diagnosed.

Jennifer Owenson, one of Mr Week's four children, said the Newton hospital did its best to help her father, but his infection held strong. Worried, his family asked for him to be transferred to a hospital better equipped to help him, but they were told he was on a “list of degrees of severity” and that his number “had not come up”, according to Ms Owenson.

“He was extremely frustrated. He was like, ‘Why can’t something be done?’” she said.

After 15 days in Newton, he was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals by ambulance. Doctors there determined he would need surgery to clear out a severe infection in an artery near his stomach. Doctors told Mr Weeks and his family that without the surgery, he would die in just a few days.

The doctors who performed the surgery told the family it was the one of the worst infections they had ever seen, no doubt made more severe by the near half-month Mr Weeks had to wait for advanced treatment.

Mr Weeks struggled after the surgery, and his kidneys and intestines began to fail. He eventually died on 28 November.

Ms Owenson placed the blame for her father's inability to find advanced help on the troves of unvaccinated Americans who are crowding US hospitals due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s infuriating that people who are not vaccinated are clogging it up,” she said.

Hospital representatives declined to comment on Mr Weeks' situation, but did echo the frustration Ms Owenson felt about beds being unavailable due to unvaccinated Covid-19 patients.

“In addition to an increased number of Covid-19 cases and spread of the delta and omicron variants, hospitals across the country are dealing with traumas and experiencing multiple types of illness,” MercyOne spokesperson Marcy Peterson wrote in an email to the Des Moines Register. “This demand is coupled with a reduced number of staff to care for patients. These challenges can strain available resources and contribute to delays in care or other complications for patients.”

Ms Peterson noted in the email to the paper that unvaccinated individuals make up a large percentage of the hospitalised Covid-19 patients.

State public health data backs that claim; nearly 82 per cent of people hospitalised for Covid-19 in Iowa are not fully vaccinated, including 88 per cent who are in intensive care.

Mr Weeks, a former math and science teacher who eventually became a school superintendent, leaves behind a wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Though Mr Weeks may still have died from his infection even if he had received immediate treatment, his family believes he would have had a better chance at survival had beds been available.

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