Michael Lewis was nearing the end of his stay at Chicago’s Lake Shore HealthCare and Rehabilitation Centre when he burned to death, a tragedy his family says might have been avoided by effective action from the staff.
“He burned to death,” his sister says. “He sustained burns like from mid-thigh up to the eyebrows,” Lisa Couch told CBS 2 in Chicago. Security camera footage shows Lewis outside on a patio, a designated smoking area, when his shirt caught fire from the lighter in his pocket. Other residents tried to put out the flames, but when they failed, Lewis wheeled himself back inside to get help. Staff members sprayed Lewis with a fire extinguisher, a violation of rules. Lewis was then wheeled back out onto the patio and remained there, motionless, until the EMS crew arrived some minutes later.
Dr. Stanley Zydlo, an emergency response expert, watched the security video and told CBS that there were a number of problems in addition to the inappropriate use of the fire extinguisher. Zydlo said staff members should have smothered the fire with a blanket and they should have checked Lewis’s airway and performed CPR. They should also have covered Lewis with damp sheets, Zydlo said, to cool him down and stop the burning process.
The nursing home was cited by authorities for failure to adequately train staff in emergency procedures. Lewis’s family has filed a lawsuit against the facility.