Houston veteran dies of treatable illness after waiting hours for ICU bed

HOUSTON – Houstonian Daniel Wilkinson, who served two deployments in Afghanistan, died of treatable gallstone pancreatitis on Sunday after waiting seven hours for an ICU bed.

“There wasn’t anything I could do to help him,” mom Michelle Puget said through tears. “I think that’s the one thing that hurts me the most.”

Wilkinson took care of Puget while she battled breast cancer in recent years, bringing her to every doctor’s appointment.

On Saturday, he suddenly felt very sick. Puget took him to the emergency room down the street from their home in Bellville, outside Houston.

The doctor diagnosed him with gallstone pancreatitis and determined he would need an ICU bed and a procedure to resolve the blockage.

“The doctor was trying to find him an ICU bed,” Puget said. “He said ‘we have been refused so far.’ He said ‘we have called Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Colorado.’”

Finally, a hospital official in Colorado said they had a bed and staff to take care of Wilkinson. Just before Wilkinson was moved, the family learned the Houston VA hospital would also be able to treat him.

Emergency responders rushed Wilkinson to the hospital by helicopter but his organs were already shutting down.

“I think the doctors did everything they could once they got him,” said Puget. “But…it had been [seven] hours. And it’s something that needed to be taken care of right away.”

Puget said Wilkinson leaves behind siblings, a nephew, his Great Danes and many friends and other relatives, including many Army brothers.

He also leaves behind his girlfriend, who Puget said is currently hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia.

“She’s not doing very well, especially that Danny is gone,” Puget said. “I think they would have gotten married.”

Puget called her son “a great big teddy bear,” adding, “and everybody loved him.”


About the Author:

Emmy and Edward R. Murrow-award winning reporter. Believer, father of five, Ironman finisher. Yo hablo Español.