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I-Team Investigation: Nursing Home Nightmare Part 1

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ANDOVER, Kan. -- Ed and Donna Colcher met when they were 24-years-old and worked for the same Wichita company.

After a 9-month courtship, they married, had a family and soon were enjoying watching their grandchildren grow. That's when their world changed.

At age 48, Donna had a brain aneurysm and then a stroke. For ten years, her family cared for her at home, until they were forced to place her in a a skilled nursing center. A little over nine months later, they suspected something was going terribly wrong.

"The bruising is the one thing that brought my concern to it first, because I found it very hard to believe that my mom was getting these astronomical bruises." says Joanna Wheatly.

The family says nursing home administrators dismissed the bruises as falls. Then Donna told her husband Ed something.

"She said 'I'm scared, I'm scared.' I said, 'Are they mean to you at night?' She said 'some of them are.'"

By this time, Donna had developed serious dementia. Ed Colcher didn't want to falsely accuse anyone. So, he bought a Nanny-Cam and set it up. Just 12 hours later, the camera caught something that shocked Ed and his family.

The video shows an employee of the facility lifting Donna out of her wheelchair and dropping her on the floor. He turns off the light and then leaves the room.

For nearly 25 minutes, Donna begs for help. She eventually crawls to the door. As she does, the same nurse walks in..

Donna is heard yelling, "You're the one who dropped me! You're the one who dropped me! All I wanted to do was pee."

Instead of helping her up off of the floor, the nurse drags her back to the center of the floor, leaves and turns out the lights once again. It would be another 45 minutes before another nurse and one aid get Donna off of the floor.

Donna's husband, daughter and granddaughter say they watched clip after clip of abuse and neglect, including Donna continually begging for bare necessities like using the restroom and clean clothing or for her husband to be called.

"I was very upset with them. I was very upset with myself because I put her in there. I put her in harm's way, I felt."

Ed immediately found a new facility for his wife. Six months later, he brought the video to the Andover Police Department, an attorney and to KAKE News. The video was also seen by state investigators who called it abuse and neglect of a patient.

Dan Giroux, the Colcher family attorney says, "When you see a video, you know a picture speaks a thousand words... When you watch the video you are in shock. There is no human being in the world that should be treated the way."

KAKE News tried to contact administrators at Victoria Falls several times in the past few weeks to show them the video and get their reaction. Calls were never returned. Then late Monday, the owner issued a statement, which in part, said when they were notified of alleged incidents in March, and they immediately took action to terminate one employee. The state made sure two others were suspended. However, to the family and the state, it clearly wasn't nearly enough.

"It was devastating to witness what occurred that night." says Joe Ewart with the state Department of Aging and Disability, which regulates skilled nursing facilities. "The nursing home probably could say, 'well, these are just a couple of bad apples."

But, Ewart says, "They still have the ultimate responsibility to make sure that those residents are free, free from abuse and neglect is a basic right. There's no call for this."

Victoria Falls has been fined over $155,000 plus $1,000 a day until it proves to the state that all problems have been corrected. In addition, the Department of Aging has recommended two of the nurses aides in the video never work in a nursing home again. As for the nurse in the video, his RN license has been suspended and may be revoked. Butler County has filed criminal charges against him.

Still, many questions remain. Why wasn't the facility closed and most importantly, will the video be a catalyst for change in our state for years to come?

We spoke to someone who may be able to make a difference. We answer all of those questions Tuesday on KAKE News at 10. Click here for part two.

Click here for part three.


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