The following is a stenographer’s report from Douglas vs. Fairfield Medical Home at the 2nd Appellate Court in Wichita, Kansas. The plaintiff, Beatrice Douglas, accused Fairfield Medical of gross negligence regarding the care of her brother, John Douglas.
District Attorney: State your full name and occupation for the court, please.
Dana Ellensburg: Dana Sophia Ellensburg. I am a nurse at Fairfield Medical Home.
DA: How long have you worked there, Ms. Ellensburg?
DE: Six months. Sanford hired me.
DA: Where did you work before Fairfield?
DE: If you’re referring to my schooling—
DA: I’m not. Where did you work before Fairfield?
DE: (pause) I waited tables at Lucy’s Diner to help pay for nursing school.
DA: So Fairfield was your first actual nursing job?
DE: (short pause) Yes.
DA: Let’s revisit the night of March 5. Do you remember it?
DE: Of course. It was just before that awful explosion in Bloomington.
DA: It was also the same night Mr. Douglas’s body disappeared.
DE: You mean Mr. Douglas.
DA: I mean his body. You were working the graveyard shift, yes?
DA: Were you working alone?
DE: No. Sherry tended the front desk. Bob was on security. We had a couple of interns, though I don’t recall their names.
DA: Alison Quirion and Bret Somerset.
DE: That sounds right.
DA: It is. What was Mr. Douglas’s condition when you first checked on him that evening?
DE: Nothing had changed since he’d fallen into the coma. His vitals were weak but steady. His breathing was shallow, which is what one would expect to find of any person in his condition.
DA: His condition. You mean the coma or his advanced age?
DE: Both, I guess.
DA: Before John fell into the coma, he was confined to a wheel chair, was he not?
DE: He’d been unable to walk since his previous stroke.
DA: He had to have assistance feeding himself, dressing himself, cleaning himself, going to the bathroom, did he not?
DE: He did.
DA: In fact, John Wyatt Douglas could barely perform even the simplest of tasks. You or someone like you had to help him with everything, correct?
DA: I’m confused. You swore in your statement to the police that you saw John Wyatt Douglas walk out the side door in the hallway adjacent to his room the night of March 5. Walk out on his own two feet, under his own power. Is that right?
DE: Y-yes . . .
DA: What time was that again?
DE: About midnight.
DA: And the time of your previous check?
DE: 10:00 p.m.
DA: How do you explain the sudden turnaround? I mean, the man was in a coma, and before that, he was confined to a wheel chair. In fact, Fairfield had been ordered to take him off meds and let nature take its course. For all intents and purposes, John was knocking at death’s door. How do you explain that?
DE: I—I can’t.
DA: I can’t explain it either. No doctor I’ve consulted in the past seven weeks can explain it. It just never happens. An elderly man who had lost the use of his legs and couldn’t feed himself one minute doesn’t just wake up from a coma and walk away the next minute now, does he?
DE: But it happened!
DA: Are you sure it was John Douglas you saw?
DA: How do you know it was John and not someone else?
DE: He saw me. He smiled at me. We made eye contact. Then he was gone.
DA: He smiled at you. Had he done that before?
DE: Not like this.
DA: Like what?
DE: Normally when he smiled at me, it was as a thank you—a strained gesture to show his appreciation. After a meal, say, or when handing him something he had reached for.
DA: This was different how?
DE: It felt like—
DA: Go on.
DE: It felt like he was . . . flirting. As if he was saying: “Catch you later,” or “Catch me if you can.”
DA: You chased after him?
DE: It took me a moment, but yes, I rushed to follow him out the door.
DA: Why a moment?
DE: I was in shock! I’d never seen John like that before, let alone him walking!
DA: What did you find when you went out the door?
DE: An empty parking lot. There was no sign of John. No sign of anyone.
DA: So . . . he just vanished?
DA: Did anyone else see John walk out? Bob, Sherry, Alison?
DA: Oddly enough, the security cameras covering the parking lot didn’t see him either! Can you explain that?
DA: Bodies don’t just disappear, Ms. Ellensburg!
DE: Stop saying “body!” John wasn’t dead!
DA: Right, as you have testified, he walked out of the nursing home on his own two feet! Maybe he walked back to his farm and plowed his fields! Maybe he was hungry and hit up a Quickie Mart for some junk food! Hell, maybe if we wait long enough, he’ll walk through these doors, into this very courtroom, and enlighten us all as to where he’s been all this time!
(Commotion in the courtroom.)
(Copyright 2014. Dave Cravens.)