BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIV) — It was an emotional, tear-filled moment late last month, as Terrell King and his mother found themselves at the bedside of Terrell’s father, Timothy Swink.
Terrell was recording his father’s last moments on his cell phone. Soft music played from another cell phone — a favorite R&B hit about a child remembering their father — and a final plea from Terrell to his dying father, to hang on to life.
Timothy Swink died just a few days later. He was 60.
“His nurse said she was going to give him a shot of morphine so he wouldn’t be in pain,” King remembered about last time he would see his father alive. “I said fine, so I went home. I got a call at 3:15 and … they said my father was dead.”
Rewind to last June, just days before 87-year-old William Strasner plummeted to his death while trying to escape from a third story window at the former Emerald South nursing home, Terrell was called to the facility to check on his father.
He said the conditions he found were abysmal: Mucus and dirt were strewn about the room, old food lay on the floor, Timothy was in and out of consciousness.
Overcome with emotion, Terrell locked himself in the bathroom, and wept.
The next call about Terrell’s father would come in February to News 4 anchor Dave Greber. Doctors at ECMC told Greber that Timothy, who had Huntington’s Disease, was now in the hospital; his condition had suddenly worsened, and they were desperately trying to reach his son.
“They put him on machines. When he did glare up and look at me, you could see the pain in him,” Terrell said. “I know my dad suffered. He was just in so much pain. He was in so much pain, and he just had to deal with it.”
Terrell thought the cause of death was related to Huntington’s Disease. But the death certificate he received a few days later showed otherwise.
As it turns out, Timothy died from sepsis shock, as a result of an epidural abscess and osteomyelitis, a rare bone infection.
“Bacteria in his body, paralyzed. They could have helped that man,” Terrell said. “They could have saved’em. They chose not to.”
Terrell wants answers. And he wants accountability. He’s hired the services of the Brown Chiari Law Firm, which has been successful with past notable cases out of Emerald South, including that of Ruth Murray, who died in August 2016 after being beaten by another nursing home patient.
“The one thing we do notice is that conditions didn’t change. And I think that’s significant,” said Mike Scinta, of the Brown Chiari Law Firm. “You have so many events prior to this time that have indicated to this facility that things need to change.”
Scinta said he’s seen this story before. He and other attorneys at Brown Chiari represented Murray’s family.
“The way you die is important,” Scinta said. “And everyone deserves to die with dignity. And oftentimes, that’s just taken away from someone, and they die without their dignity.”
Terrell said he believes that’s what happened to his father; gone far too soon, and with a painful exit.
“I thought my dad had another 10 years, which he could’ve had,” Terrell said. “And even if he had five years, as long as he wasn’t in pain, I can deal with that. But what I can’t deal with is him dying in pain.
“I pleaded,” he added. “And they changed for about one day. And after that it was … my father was dead.”
Representatives for Grand Healthcare, which took over the Delaware Avenue nursing home in December, declined to comment, citing patient privacy laws.
However, they said they have been working to improve conditions at that and other facilities, especially as it pertains to patient care.