02/09/10 — Patient, 80, dies after choking at Cherry

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Patient, 80, dies after choking at Cherry

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 9, 2010 1:46 PM

An elderly patient at Cherry Hospital died unexpectedly last week, and his death has been attributed to cardiac problems.

Lawrence Russell Jr., 80, a patient on the geriatric ward, was from Beaufort County.

The death occurred on Feb. 2 at 12:48 p.m. after Russell choked on food while eating lunch. Life-saving measures were used but were unsuccessful, officials said.

A death report was released today by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Renee McCoy, director of public affairs with DHHS, said Russell was an Alzheimer's patient with a history of heart problems. The report also indicated Russell's family had established DNR -- do not resuscitate -- status prior to his admission to Cherry Hospital.

According to the report, on the morning of Feb. 2 Russell was assessed due to possible fluctuating blood pressure. "Patient denied pain, nausea, shortness of breath and dizziness and vital signs were found to be normal," the report said, noting that additional studies were ordered.

"(The choking incident) happened during feeding time," Ms. McCoy said. "He was supervised and being fed by a health care tech and he was not unsupervised at the time.

"Immediately, life-saving measures were administered. We feel there was nothing unusual about the death given the patient's health and the age."

Russell was unresponsive and transferred by EMS to Wayne Memorial Hospital, the report said. No autopsy has been ordered.

The report also made note of an earlier manual hold that had been made on Russell the day before his death, on Feb. 1 around 4:30 p.m. There were "no reported complications of the hold," the report said.