ASHEVILLE, North Carolina WBTV says that when Jason Powell went to the Asheville VA Medical Center in September 2012, he thought he had a bad case of the flu.
The 40-year-old father of three had recently moved to Asheville after finishing a career in the Army that spanned more than two decades.
He left the Army on terminal leave in July but his official retirement date was September 1, 2012, the report says.
Powell and his wife, Jennifer, made the trip to the VA hospital, less than a mile from their new house, before the moving truck had even arrived with their belongings.
More than the flu
What the Powells thought was a case of the flu turned out to be far more serious.
Doctors said Powell had diverticulitis and a small perforation in his bowel. Jason Powell was admitted to the hospital to treat the infection caused by the perforation.
Jennifer Powell said her husband settled in for a hospital stay while she went back to the family’s new home to prepare for the moving truck expected to come the next day.
“He’d be home in, you know, five-to-seven days,” she recalled thinking.
It was the next evening before Jennifer Powell was able to get to the hospital to see her husband. The moving truck had come, her house was now a maze of unpacked boxes. One of her husband’s new co-workers came to the house to watch the kids while Jennifer went to see her husband.
When she arrived at the hospital that night, Jennifer Powell got news she wasn’t expecting from a doctor who had been caring for her husband.
“She bowed her head down and then she looked at me and said, ‘Mrs. Powell, I’m sorry to say but there’s been an issue with your husband. He’s in ICU,’” Jennifer Powell recalled.
Jason Powell had been rushed to the ICU after a nurse realized he had stopped breathing.
Questions about medication, monitoring
Doctors were unsure how long Jason Powell had been left without oxygen because he was not hooked up to any machines that would monitor his oxygen intake.
Powell had been placed on a non-critical floor to be treated for an infection. Even though his vital signs were not being monitored, he was still being prescribed a powerful narcotic known as Dilaudid.
Dilaudid works in a way similar to morphine but is given in smaller doses because it’s much more powerful.
Jason Powell’s medical records show he was prescribed 1mg of the powerful opiate every four hours but was given 4mg on two different occasions.
It was after he had been administered too much Dilaudid that he was found unresponsive and rushed to the ICU, where he later died.
Doctor discloses ‘medication error’
Jennifer Powell had just come to the hospital with her children when they walked in to find a team of doctors and other medical staff working to keep her husband alive.
“I sat my kids down and told them something had happened with dad, we weren’t sure what it was but we needed you to come to the hospital,” she recalled. “There was a handful of people in the room trying to revive him. And I just walked in – I ran in the room and started hollering his name and begging him to wake up.”
Ultimately, Jason Powell died on September 6, 2012; less than a week after officially retiring from the Army.
In the time immediately after her husband’s death, Powell says the ICU attending doctor told her something that still haunts her today.
“He said, ‘Mrs. Powell, I have to tell you, morally and ethically, I need you to know that there was an error in your husband’s care. There was a medication error. Not just once but twice,’” Jennifer Powell recalled.