They Came In With Paddles to Save Him. A Fireball Erupted

Family says dad died after fireball caused by defibrillator in Nashville hospital
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2022 10:30 AM CST
Family: Dad Died After Fireball Caused by Hospital Defibrillator
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Renewer)

A Tennessee woman says her husband died on Thanksgiving after catching fire in a Nashville hospital, and now his family is speaking out to prevent something like this from happening again. Kathy Stark tells WKRN that earlier this month she had her spouse of 35 years, Bobby Ray, brought to a hospital due to bedsores and a foot infection. A GoFundMe set up by Joyce Feakes, who identifies herself as the couple's daughter, notes that Bobby Ray had been bedridden for seven years after suffering a series of strokes, and that he was first transported by ambulance on Nov. 15 to a hospital in Erin. He was then moved to a hospital in Hendersonville, then finally to TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, where they amputated part of his foot, the GoFundMe notes.

Feakes writes her father started complaining about chest pains, and that it was so bad on Thursday that a nurse came in to try to adjust him in his bed—a movement that caused his blood pressure to plummet and a team of staffers to rush in with a defibrillator to revive him. Feakes notes that the electricity from the device sparked her father's oxygen, creating a fireball that engulfed him. "It just blew up everything," Stark tells WKRN. "He got burned in the throat, the face, the head, the chest and his hands. ... I said, 'He's on fire, put him out.'" Stark notes that her husband was brought to another local hospital's burn unit, where he ended up succumbing to his injuries on Thanksgiving night. Feakes writes on the GoFundMe page that her mother was told something like that had never happened before and that "a faulty wire" in the defib pad had caused the explosion.

AED USA, a medical equipment supplier, notes that defibrillators shouldn't be used in "flammable environments," including rooms where there may be "combustible vapors" like oxygen. The GoFundMe page notes that Stark was her husband's sole caretaker and that they relied on his Social Security payments to get by. "Not only does she have to deal with the loss of her husband and best friend, but she has to live with seeing and smelling everything that happened to him," Feakes writes. The hospital, meanwhile, expressed its "deepest sympathies" to Stark's family in a statement, adding that "while we cannot discuss specifics, we are reviewing the care provided to the patient and the functionality of equipment." (Read more accidental death stories.)

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