Veteran dies of treatable illness after waiting hours for ICU bed

Daniel Wilkinson, 46, who served two deployments in Afghanistan, died Sunday of gallstone pancreatitis, a treatable illness, after waiting hours for an ICU bed, KPRC reported

Wilkinson's mother, Michelle Puget, rushed him to the local emergency room in Bellville, Texas, on Saturday after he started to feel sick. The doctor diagnosed Wilkinson with gallstone pancreatitis, which the Bellville Medical Center is not equipped to treat, the emergency physician who treated Wilkinson, Hasan Kakli, explained on "CBS This Morning." 

Kakli determined that Wilkinson needed an ICU bed and a procedure to remove the gallstone, according to KPRC.

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"The doctor was trying to find him an ICU bed," Puget told KPRC. "He said 'we have been refused so far.' He said 'we have called Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Colorado.'" 

The family was eventually informed that the Houston VA hospital would be able to take Wilkinson. As emergency responders rushed to transport him by helicopter, his organs started shutting down, KPRC reported.

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

Wilkinson lived an hour and a half outside Houston and within "yelling distance" of the local hospital but was unable to receive the treatment he needed, according to "CBS This Morning."

"He loved his country," Puget told CBS. "He served two deployments over in Afghanistan, came home with a Purple Heart, and it was a gallstone that took him out."

Wilkinson's story comes as Texas hospitals are struggling with the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, with one doctor in the state describing the situation as a "hair on fire" crisis in Texas ICUs. 

As of Thursday, there were 13,932 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Texas and only 356 available ICU beds statewide.