HUMBLE, Texas – It’s a phone call no loving spouse wants to get, but after a major mixup it’s one Betty Harris says keeps playing in her head over and over again.
Betty was told her husband, Bryant, was dead when in actuality, he wasn’t.
”It’s still affecting me. Every now and then, I think about it,” Betty said.
Back on March 8, she says she got what may have been the worst phone call of her life.
It came from a strange number she quickly learned was Memorial Hermann Hospital in Humble.
”[The doctor] said, ‘It’s about your husband.’ I said, ‘My husband was in a rehabilitation.’ He said ‘No, your husband is at the emergency room,’” Betty recalled.
The doctor went on to tell Betty that her husband had stopped breathing before sharing the tragic news.
“I said, ‘What’s wrong? Is he alright?’ [The doctor] said ‘No, he’s dead,’” she added.
Betty says she was devastated and also confused because she had just left her husband at the Deerbrook Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center the day before where he was recovering from knee surgery.
”I’m falling down, fumbling around and stuff,” Betty said.
Still discombobulated, she immediately called loved ones including her friend Cheryl Baker.
”She was screaming and hollering. I knew something was wrong,” Baker said. “I just said ‘Hey! Catch your breath,’ then she said ‘Bryant is dead!’”
But at the hospital, Betty got an even bigger surprise when it was time to identify the body. She says the deceased body she was shown was in fact not her spouse.
Betty says she learned the mixup began at the Deerbrook facility where someone passed off Bryant’s chart while rushing another man to Memorial Hermann.
”They did a poor job of identifying this man. Why did they not call the rehabilitation facility back first and speak to them about the man who came from that facility that passed away, before you make such a dramatic, dreadful phone call?” community activist Quanell X asked.
”Probably it was a mistake, you understand? But it was just so horrifying,” Betty said.
Bryant is still alive and is now at home recovering.
The family wants both facilities to implement a better system of checks and balances so this never happens again.
Memorial Hermann Hospital says it can’t comment on the situation because of patient privacy laws.
The rehabilitation center sent the following statement after this story aired on KPRC 2:
“At Deerbrook Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation our patient’s health and safety remain are our number one priority. We strive to deliver high-quality care every day with compassionate nursing and caregiving staff. Regrettably, our team transferred a patient to the hospital with incorrect identifying paperwork. We have communicated with the hospital and families involved to address this situation and are truly sorry for our mistake.”