Archive for August, 2013

Morton hospital sued for unnecessary pain, death of 96-year-old patient

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A lawsuit has been filed against Morton General Hospital on behalf of an elderly woman who was discharged from its emergency room with two boxes of enemas and a misdiagnosis of constipation and died days later.

Gertrude Tibbetts was taken to the hospital with severe abdominal pain where she was given an injection of pain medication, and an X-ray and then released against her wishes a little more than an hour later.

“She was screaming in agony, stating ‘I can’t believe you are sending me home, you are killing me. No one survives pain like this’,” an attorney for her daughter states in court documents.

The visit to the East Lewis County public hospital was Feb. 26, 2010. Tibbetts, 96, was residing at a Morton nursing home so she and her daughter Jane E. Jones could spend more time together, the attorney wrote.

The attorney stated, when the nurse handed the boxes with enemas to the Heritage House representative, she asked why they couldn’t be administered at hospital. The nurse replied, the lawyer wrote, “What? Do you want a blow out in the van?” and three nurses burst out laughing while Tibbetts was screaming in the background.

The complaint filed in Lewis County Superior Court earlier this month for medical malpractice and wrongful death names the hospital, Dr. Thomas Calderon and three unknown nurses.

Tibbetts was brought back to the hospital the following day when the laxatives were ineffective and then transferred to Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia. There, doctors discovered she was suffering with peritonitis due to small bowel obstruction and perforation as well as kidney failure. She was given comfort measures and died Mar 2, 2010.

“For her age, Gertrude Tibbetts was a remarkable and strong woman who was cognitively bright, and full of life, personality and humor,” the Puyullap-based attorney Talis Abolins wrote.

Abolins alleges the hospital failed when it failed to admit her, and failed to provide appropriate evaluation and care.

“She suffered tremendous pain and suffering, humiliation and fear of her impending death in the hours and days that followed,” the attorney wrote.

Multiple messages left requesting comment from hospital administrators yesterday were unreturned. Attempts to reach Calderon were unsuccessful. The parties have 20 days to respond in court to the lawsuit.

Calderon was informally disciplined by the state Medical Quality Assurance Commission for his evaluation of the patient’s condition.

He agreed to two years of probation and to undertake extra education in exchange for the commission not continuing to pursue charges of incompetence, negligence or malpractice, according to documents filed with the state Department of Health.

The commission alleged that after ordering the shot of pain medication and an X-ray which was unrevealing, Calderon did not perform a subsequent examination of Tibbetts, according to the documents.

The stipulation agreement – signed March 11, 2011 – indicated he should be sanctioned at a level comparable to practicing below the standard of care, related to causing unnecessary pain, stating the failure may not have caused the death since early discovery may not have saved her life.

The doctor did not admit any of the commission’s allegations, but was cooperative, had no previous disciplinary action since being licensed in Washington in 1998 and was released from his probation this past March.

The allegations by the commission note the patient reported her pain level as 20 on a scale of one to 10, while nurses recorded it at 10; and at discharge, the patient described her pain as a seven or eight.

The lawsuit seek damages in an amount to “be proven at trial.”

Among the reimbursements sought are medical bills of about $6,800 from Morton General Hospital and almost $16,000 from Providence St. Peter Hospital.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, August 30th, 2013


• A 35-year-old Chehalis woman called police to report her wedding ring was missing from her home on the 700 block of Southeast Adams Avenue. It turned up in a pawn shop and police have put a hold on it while they investigate, according to the Chehalis Police Department. She suspects someone she knows took it, according to police. The ring is valued at around $5,000, Deputy Chief Randy Kaut said.


• A 31-year-old Centralia man was arrested for an outstanding warrant and possession of methamphetamine about 5:20 this morning after contact with an officer at the 700 block of North Tower Avenue. Joseph L. Nickols was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police responded to the 1300 block of Belmont Avenue about 8:45 p.m. yesterday when an individual called 911 to say a man approached them and asked if they would like to purchase some morphine. Officers arrested Ronnie L. Lawrence, 45, from Onalaska, for a drug violation and booked him into the lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• A deputy was called yesterday about 7:15 a.m. to the 100 block of Foster Creek Road outside Toledo after an individual discovered someone had tried to pry a rollup garage door. It occurred sometime between midnight and 7 a.m., according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Nothing appeared to be missing, according to the sheriff’s office.


• A woman who lives in the 100 block of West First Street in Centralia called 911 about 4:42 a.m. today when she discovered a motorcycle inside her garage was burned. Police and firefighters responded and concluded it had happened at least 24 hours earlier and possibly as long as three days prior, according to Riverside Fire Authority. Fire Chief Jim Walkowski said it can’t be anything else but arson. Nothing else was harmed although there was a bit of smoke damage on a wall, and why she didn’t notice it when it happened he didn’t know, he said. Firefighters collected samples and evidence and have sent them of to the crime lab, he said. Police have a person of interest they were looking for today, according to Walkowski. There’s no reason to believe it is connected with the previous string of arson fires locally, Walkowski said.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, driving with suspended license, misdemeanor assault, possession of drug paraphernalia; responses for alarm, receipt of a counterfeit bill, receipt of bad checks, graffiti, stolen wallet, found wallet, other misdemeanor theft, suspicious activity, numerous fender benders on Interstate 5 at Centralia, vehicle fire; complaint that a woman who didn’t like the way her hair coloring turned out left a beauty shop after paying only $100 of her $140 bill … and more.

Coroner: Burns, infection killed victim of Vader house fire

Friday, August 30th, 2013


By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Jeannette Dunivan-Spain died from a very bad infection due to burns she suffered in the house fire in Vader.

Dunivan-Spain, 39, was taken off life support at St. John Medical Center in Longview last Friday, eight days after she was injured in the fire.


721 C Street, Vader

The cause of the blaze is under investigation, but she told deputies she had been using a candle for light in her friend’s house which had no electricity or running water. She told her mother her blanket caught on fire.

It happened very early in the morning of Aug. 15; the one and half story house on C Street was a total loss.

She was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital where she was treated and released. The following day, she was taken to the Longview hospital, treated further and released again. Dunivan-Spain went to the hospital a third time when her condition worsened.

Lewis County Coroner’s Office Chief Deputy Coroner Dawn Harris said yesterday an autopsy revealed the cause of death was a very bad staph infection she’d had for days, because of second-degree burns to her face and upper extremities.

It was merhicillin resistant staphyococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, Harris said.

Cowlitz County Coroner Tim Davidson said the hospital requested a clinical autopsy, as the physician wanted more definition on what the patient was suffering from. Because of the law enforcement investigation into the house fire, a forensic autopsy was in order as well and it just made more sense for all to it to be handled by Lewis County, he said.

A memorial service for Dunivan-Spain will be held tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 122 Henriott Road, Toledo

For background, read:

• “Vader burn victim dies, investigation underway” from Wednesday August 28, 2013, here

• “Vader house fire injures one” from Thursday August 15, 2013, here

Excessive force complaint lodged against Centralia police

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 41-year-old Centralia man who uses a wheelchair has filed a claim against the city saying he was attacked and injured by police officers during an incident in a hallway outside his apartment door.

Trygve Nelson was followed into the building where he lives on the 200 block of West Reynolds Street by an officer who was attempting to talk with him regarding calls he had just rode his wheelchair in the middle of the road up North Pearl Street.

Nelson’s claim for damages notes his injuries, his multiple upcoming medical appointments and claims damages in the amount of $400,000. It doesn’t detail what he claims police did – only saying police wrongly attacked him – but a six-page police report from the Centralia Police Department goes into great detail.

Nelson writes the incident occurred on July 2; the police report states it occurred on June 30.

According to the police report, Officer Patricia Finch called for backup after a drunken, angry and cussing Nelson refused to give his name, and stood up from his wheelchair facing her – he is described as 6-feet 4-inches tall and weighing 230 pounds – prompting her to unsnap her Taser – before riding away from her, going inside and slamming his door.

When Sgt. Carl Buster arrived and knocked on the door four times with his flashlight, Nelson exited fast with his hands in the air and said, “What the f***,” according to police reports.

Buster states in his report that fearing he was about to be assaulted, he spun Nelson around and tried to secure him against the wall.

Finch’s and Buster’s reports tell how they tried to gain control of him and he resisted, until he was on the ground and cuffed with a roughly one inch long cut above his left eye. It left what Finch described as a small amount of blood on the floor.

As they walked outside, Nelson allegedly pulled away and grabbed at Buster’s hand, and Buster “escorted him to the ground” again, Finch wrote.

They put a leg restraint on him because he was flailing. He was yelling he had aids, was terminal and they should just kill him, the officers wrote.

This all occurred at an apartment complex owned and operated by Reliable Enterprises, an organization founded in the 1970s to assist individuals with developmental disabilities.

Nelson was bleeding profusely, and said he was on blood thinners as well as heart medication, according to the report.

At one point, he was apologetic, said he was sorry for being an A-hole and that he drank too much after 18 years of abstinence, the report states.

Nelson vomited, medics sedated him and put a tube down his throat.

He lists in his claim injuries to his head, shoulder and knee and notes he has appointments with specialists for spine, for hands and ankles and for blood, as well as his primary physician.

Nelson also claims he was denied medical care while in jail and denied access to his medications. The Lewis County Jail is run by the sheriff’s office, not the police department.

Nelson was at the emergency room for several hours, where a doctor ordered a chest X-ray and CT scan because he was unconscious, according to police.

He was cited for several misdemeanors: disorderly conduct, obstructing a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. However, by the following morning he had allegedly pushed a hospital staff member who was attempting to discharge him, so he was booked into the Lewis County Jail for third-degree assault.

Centralia Police Department Chief Bob Berg said yesterday the police report was rather self-explanatory.

“Claims like this are routinely denied by our insurance carrier,” Berg stated in a written response. “Any comment beyond that would be inappropriate as potential litigation may arise from the incident.”

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, August 29th, 2013


• There was alcohol involved, there was a family dispute, a man punched somebody and then another man took offense and chased him with a knife around a trailer park. It happened at the Peppertree Motel and RV Park on the 1200 block of Alder Street about 9:30 p.m. yesterday. Someone handed a stick to the chasee who used it to strike Samuel L. Pearson across the back, according to the Centralia Police Department. Pearson was taken to to Providence Centralia Hospital for treatment of his injury and then booked into the Lewis County Jail for second-degree assault because of the knife, according to police.


• A 35-year-old Pe Ell man was arrested yesterday for second-degree assault after he allegedly used his vehicle to ram his ex-girlfriend’s vehicle as they were traveling eastbound on state Route 6 around 11 p.m. the night before. The 32-year-old woman told a deputy they were arguing and she left, and he followed her, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Daniel G. Thompson was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to Sgt. Rob Snaza. The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office is declining to charge him.


• Centralia police serving a warrant at apartments yesterday afternoon at the 500 block of Hillkress Street detained several people and ended up arresting four for either warrants of drug violations, according to the Centralia Police Department. “When officers went inside (two units), there were multiple people, like 10 to 15 of them,” Sgt. Stacy Denham said. Rebecca J. Andrade, also known as Rebecca J. McClain, 45, of Centralia, was booked into the Lewis County Jail for a warrant, according to police. Denham didn’t have many details, saying it was an Anti-Crime Team case. The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office is declining to charge three people arrested for alleged drug violations.


• A 48-year-old man from Dallas, Texas was arrested yesterday at the service station on the 1200 block of Mellen Street in Centralia after he allegedly tried to peddle pills to someone. Officers called about 10:30 a.m. by the 28-year-old man he approached ended up finding Clifton R. Young had bottle containing a variety of pills, according to the Centralia Police Department. Young was booked into the Lewis County Jail for a violation of the uniform controlled substances act, according to police.


• An officer contacted two people walking down a Centralia street about 3 o’clock this morning, found one of them had an outstanding warrant and subsequently discovered a pipe with suspected methamphetamine, according to the Centralia Police Department. It happened near North Rock and West Pine streets. Amanda M. Ervin, 24, was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for possession of meth, according to police.


• Police were called about 8:40 p.m. yesterday when a resident arrived home to the 1300 block of Crescent Avenue in Centralia to discover someone had stolen his Dell computer, an iPod, a backpack … and T-shirts, according to the Centralia Police Department. The case is under investigation, according to police.

• A deputy was called yesterday afternoon to a home on the 200 block of Spencer Road near Toledo where someone had broken in and stolen two sinks, an ice making machine, utility wiring and other items. The deputy was told the burglary occurred sometime since Monday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.


• A red 1965 Chevrolet pickup truck was reported stolen about 7 o’clock this morning from the 1000 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia. It has a primer red box and no rear window, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Centralia police took a report yesterday morning from a business owner regarding graffiti painted on several buildings, including in the area of the 100 block of South Tower Avenue.


• Firefighters were called about 10:15 p.m. yesterday when a motorist pulled over along the 800 block of state Route 507 north of Centralia because of a fire under the hood. It was extinguished, according to Riverside Fire Authority.


• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants; responses for disputes, child custody issues, suspicious circumstances, teenager in possession of marijuana paraphernalia  … and more.

Read about feds won’t challenge Washington marijuana law…

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The feds announced this morning essentially they won’t get involved in newly legalized recreational marijuana for adults in Washington as long as the state is appropriately strict in regulating it.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but voters in November passed Initiative 502 that allows for persons over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

The U.S. Department of Justice today announced an update to its federal marijuana enforcement policy. Jenny A. Durkan, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, shared a statement.

“Based on assurances that Washington and Colorado will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time.” reports federal authorities will however step in under certain conditions such as selling to minors, illegally using firearms in its cultivation or retail sale, growing it on federal lands or if evidence arises money from it is going to criminal enterprises or its being shipped out of state.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office reminds members of the public it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, federal lands including national parks and forests, military installations, and courthouses. Individuals that do so will be subject to federal penalties.

Read more here

News brief: Tanker truck overturns on I-5 at Grand Mound

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Interstate 5 near the exit 88 interchange. / Courtesy photo by West Thurston Regional Fire Authority.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A tanker truck carrying lubricating oil wrecked this morning on northbound Interstate 5 at Grand Mound.

Troopers and aid called just before 8 o’clock found the truck laying on its side on the shoulder; the driver sustained only minor injuries, according to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority.

Nothing spilled, the tank was not compromised, according to responders.

One lane will be blocked for an extended period of time as the tank is pumped, according to the Washington State Patrol

Vader burn victim dies, investigation underway

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Updated at 9:55 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The 39-year-old woman who suffered burns in a Vader house fire almost two weeks ago has died.

Jeannette Dunivan-Spain was put on life support last week at St. John Medical Center in Longview and two days later, she died, according to her mother Mary Dunivan.

“By Friday, she had no brain activity, they do not know what went wrong,” Dunivan said.


Jeannette Dunivan-Spain
1973 – 2013

The mother of two boys and sister to three brothers lived in Vader all her life, although she was born in Longview. She was estranged from her husband and lived in a fifth-wheel trailer in the area, but had recently begun staying at her mother’s home west of town.

“She was May Day queen, a good ball player,” Mary Dunivan said. “She was very smart.”

The night of the fire, she stayed with an old friend, in his house on C Street that had no electricity or running water.

Firefighters called just before 1 a.m. on Aug. 15 found the one and half story structure fully engulfed in flames, which were spreading to the neighbor’s place. Dunivan-Spain told deputies who arrived that she ran outside after trying to knock down the flames from a tipped over candle.

“She said the candle caught her blanket on fire, she woke up she was on fire,” her mother said.

Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20 Chief Richard Underdahl said yesterday he learned of her death but travels a lot in his work and hasn’t had a chance yet to speak with investigators

“I know the sheriff’s office is doing a follow up investigation,” he said.

Underdahl said at the time he believed she suffered second-degree burns, but he never saw her because she was at the end of the street with deputies and he was fighting the fire.

Paramedics from Lewis County Medic 1 arrived and called for Life flight, he said. A helicopter wasn’t available because of the weather so she was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital, according to Underdahl.

Her burns were pretty bad, her mother said.

Dunivan said she’s still trying to make sense of what happened and why the Centralia hospital discharged her daughter that night instead of getting her to a burn center.

“She would be alive today, I believe, if that had happened,” she said.

Dunivan was stunned when the hospital said her daughter was being sent home, and that there was nothing more for them to do for her. “They wouldn’t even help me dress her,” she said.

“It was a couple hours after she got there,” she said. “I said, she should be given antibiotics, they said no, we gave her some cream, some pain pills and some bandages.”

Dunivan, who used to work as a certified nursing assistant, said her daughter had burns on her arms, her face and her legs. Her hair was singed, she said. The hospital said they were second-degree. “On her hand, looking at it now, it was probably third-degree,” she said.

The following day, a friend’s husband drove Dunivan-Spain to a hospital in Longview.

“We took her to St. John’s, they were flabbergasted Centralia had not done more,” Dunivan said.

They rewrapped her bandages, gave her antibiotics, pain medicine and more cream, she said.

Back at her mother’s home on Saturday, she seemed to be doing better. On Sunday she even went to the local cemetery with her husband to visit the graves of her father and little girl, her mother said.

“When I got home Monday evening, she was a mess,” Dunivan said. “She had chills, she was delirious. I don’t know what happened. She went bad pretty darn fast.”

An ambulance was called, but her daughter wanted her husband to drive her back to St. John Medical Center, and he did. And she never came home.

Dunivan-Spain began to improve on Tuesday, but by Wednesday, she’d had a heart attack, her gall bladder had an infection, her kidneys were failing and her lungs were in a bad way, her mother said.

The hospital had asked her daughter what kind of measures they should undertake, and her daughter told them do everything they could, she said.

“They put her on dialysis, they gave her everything they had to offer,” Dunivan said.

Her life support was disconnected on Friday.

“This is a tragic, tragic thing,” Dunivan said. “So many unanswered things we may never have answers for.”

Dunivan-Spain’s body was turned over to the Cowlitz County Coroner’s Office, who facilitated its transfer to the Lewis County Coroner’s Office. A detective with the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office is working with a fire investigator in the case.

Structure fires ending in death are infrequent in Lewis County.

Sheriff’s Office detective Sgt. Dusty Breen said the last he could recall was the fall of 2010 when a fire broke out in the home of 54-year-old Gary Ike on Nicholson Road north of Toledo.

And about four years ago, a man ended up dying from smoke inhalation when his house on Burnt Ridge Road in Onalaska burned, Breen said.

“He was in the process of moving out, there was no electricity and the house caught fire while he was sleeping,” Breen said. “He’d borrowed some candles.”

According to the sheriff’s office, their investigation is awaiting the results of an autopsy, as it’s not certain it was injuries from the fire that killed her.

A spokesperson for Providence Centralia Hospital couldn’t speak about the treatment given to Dunivan-Spain but said they are committed to the highest level of patient care.

“We take any complaint very seriously,” Chris Thomas said. “And we have a thorough investigative process that is conducted when we do receive a complaint.”

As Dunivan mourns, she’s feeling gratitude for the last couple of weeks before the fire having so much time with her daughter.

Dunivan-Spain had recently been laid off from her job at a gas station convenience store and had an appointment about drug treatment coming up, her mother said.

Yes, she had a drug problem – everyone in Vader does, her mother said. But she wasn’t a typical Vaderite, she said.

Her daughter was the kind of person who never spoke poorly of others, she said.

“She never lost her innocence, she never harmed anyone, but herself,” she said.


A memorial service for Jeannette Dunivan-Spain will be held on Saturday at 2 o’clock in the afternoon at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 122 Henriott Road, Toledo, Wash.


For background, read “Vader house fire injures one” from Thursday August 15, 2013, here