Hermantown assisted living center mixed up deathsA Hermantown assisted living center incorrectly told the family of a woman who was still alive that she had died, and didn’t correct the error until later that day.
By: Brandon Stahl, Duluth News Tribune
At about 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 23, paramedics and Hermantown police were called to Edgewood Vista on a report of a woman whose heart stopped beating and needed to be resuscitated.
The call and response were routine. Yet what followed was anything but. Edgewood Vista staff members incorrectly told the family of a woman who was still alive that she had died, and didn’t correct the error until much later in the morning.
“They said it was a rough six hours,” Darlene Ceryes, a friend and caretaker for the woman who actually died, said the family told her later in the day.
Ceryes was the caretaker for Evelyn Margaret De Pas, 90, who had a do not resuscitate order. Because the facility’s staff mistook De Pas for her roommate, who is described in a police report as being in good condition and without such an order, first responders tried to bring De Pas back to life.
“Thankfully,” Ceryes said, “they were not able to resuscitate her.”
Ceryes said she wasn’t notified of De Pas’ death until about5 1/2 hours later, and was told of the mistake only when she went to Edgewood Vista to visit her friend one last time.
“I wanted to see her,” she said. “But they said, ‘She’s not here.’ ”
Ceryes said Edgewood Vista administrator Ann Beck told her the mistake happened because the two shared a common room and their charts were mixed up when De Pas was found. Because the death happened early in the morning, the employees working that shift weren’t familiar with the two roommates.
It wasn’t until a nurse was making medication rounds later that the mistake was caught, according to the police report.
By that point, De Pas’ body already had been taken to her roommate’s designated funeral home in Superior, Ceryes said. Before it could be brought back to Duluth, Ceryes said the medical examiner had to get involved.
Eventually De Pas’ remains were taken to the correct funeral home, in Duluth, Ceryes said.
Ceryes said she spoke with Beck, who assured her that safeguards have been put in place to ensure that such a situation never happens again.
“I wasn’t inclined to make a big fuss about it,” Ceryes said. “If Evelyn had been resuscitated and put in St. Mary’s on a breathing machine, we’d have a different story.
“I feel confident they fixed the problem,” Ceryes said.
Beck declined comment, saying she wanted to protect residents’ privacy and would not discuss what safeguards were put in place.
Family members of De Pas’ roommate — who is not named in police records — declined to be interviewed for this story.
St. Louis County County Medical Examiner Thomas Uncini said he had never heard of a situation such as the one that happened at Edgewood Vista.
“But I can understand why it would happen,” he said.