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Alleged Davita nurse investigated as imposter

By Robin Y. Richardson
Jan. 12, 2018 at 4 a.m.


The case of a woman who allegedly posed as a nurse at Davita Dialysis on South Washington Avenue in Marshall has been turned over to authorities for further criminal investigation, Harrison County District Attorney Coke Solomon confirmed.

"It came to us right before Christmas. We turned it over to the Marshall Police Department Monday," Solomon said Tuesday.

Due to a conflict of interest, Solomon will be recusing himself from the case and filing a motion, asking that a special prosecutor be appointed instead in the event of prosecution.

The Texas Board of Nursing notified the District Attorney's Office about Stephanie Garcia, also known as Stephanie Halcomb, following an investigation of the employee, which was prompted by a patient's complaint.

"In May 2016, Stephanie Garcia, also known as Stephanie Halcomb, obtained employment as a registered nurse (RN) at a dialysis facility in the Marshall, Texas, area using the RN licensure information of a nurse having the same name and by submitting an application which contained falsified employment history as a RN dating back to August 2011," The Texas Board of Nursing reported in its January 2018 newsletter bulletin, warning the public about Garcia along with other reported imposters throughout the state. It can be found on the website, www.bon.texas.gov.

"In May 2017 through October 2017, Stephanie Garcia was promoted as a registered nurse and practiced as the facility administrator," the nursing board stated. "The board's investigation revealed that the date of birth, Social Security number and address information provided by Stephanie Garcia to the facility did not belong to any nurse having a license or privilege to practice nursing in the state of Texas."

Davita Dialysis emailed an official statement to the News Messenger on Thursday, confirming that Garcia no longer works there.

"The individual is suspected of falsifying information to illegally obtain employment," said Kevin Downey, who works with Davita Dialysis's corporate office in Denver. " We launched an investigation into this former employee after learning of the allegation and are working concurrently with local law enforcement."

Judy Webb, the patient who complained to the state nursing board about Garcia, said the revelation of the investigation is alarming.

"I am really speechless. I'm still dealing with this," Webb told the News Messenger in a telephone interview Thursday. "It has altered my life a whole lot more than you could ever imagine."

Webb said she doesn't understand how such a large company could let something as vital as confirming the employee's credentials slip through the cracks.

"Dialysis is my lifeline," Webb said. "Without dialysis, I could miss two treatments and I could go into overload and be gone.

"I had trusted my catheter to someone that had no credentials at all," said Webb, who is also a heart patient.

"This thing I hooked to my heart, something as vital as that and you didn't have a license," she said, explaining the catheter goes through the jugular vein and lies at the tip of the heart.

She said it baffles her that people could be that inconsiderate to step into a dialysis facility that treats patients with chronic illnesses, knowing that they aren't qualified to deal with such things such as initiating treatment, connecting catheters and administering medications.

"That shows her character as a person, her lack of integrity," Webb said. "That speaks volumes."

Webb, a Shreveport, La., resident, said she was receiving treatment at Davita in Marshall because it was more convenient for her since she had family locally and also attended college in the area.

"When she came, I probably started seeing her maybe in June until I decided that I was leaving," the former patient said of Garcia.

A PATIENT'S EXPERIENCE

Webb said she was pressed to report Garcia to the state nursing board after multiple questionable encounters with the employee.

"I'm very attentive to my dialysis," Webb said. "I've been on dialysis for three and a half years.

"I'm very active with my care and very involved," she added. "What kind of alerted me (was) she didn't know very much."

Webb said she would ask Garcia a question and the presumed nurse struggled to find answers.

"She comes back three or four days later and she still didn't know," Webb said.

Webb's suspicions of the employee further rose when Garcia allegedly refused to honor the orders of Webb's cardiologist.

"My heart doctor gave an order, because I was doing dialysis for four hours and she (Garcia) wanted me to do four hours and 15 minutes," Webb said. "It was already rough doing dialysis for four hours on my heart. My cardiologist sent her a letter. He didn't want me going over four hours."

Webb said the order was written on May 23, 2017, informing the dialysis center of Webb's Catecholamine Tachycardia diagnosis. Patients with that condition can experience an abnormal and irregular heartbeat if their heart rate increases in response to physical activity or emotional stress.

"I explained to her … it's causing my heart to run off and causing my blood pressure to go up," she recalled. "When my heart rate is up, before you know it I'm out of it (passed out). She told me, 'I'm not going to go by your doctor's order.'"

Webb said Garcia's alleged response stunned her because she knew that nurses were supposed to follow a doctor's order. Because Garcia reportedly ignored her cardiologist's instructions, Webb ended up passing out, she said.

"This particular day, on July 10, that happened to me," she recalled. "My blood pressure went up, and my heart rate went up. My machine kept going off. At this time, she kept me on dialysis for four hours and 30 minutes, and she wasn't supposed to do that without a doctor's order."

Alarmed by the continuous buzzing of the machines, Webb's husband, Anthony Webb Sr., attempted to rush to her aid.

"He heard them calling my name," she said. 'They said, 'She's unresponsive.'"

As a retired veteran of the fire department where he worked for 21 years, Webb's husband knew how to respond in emergencies, but he was turned away by Garcia.

"She told my husband, "You are not coming to administer this medicine,'" Webb recalled. "She did not know what to do when that went on. I'm having chest pains and she's rubbing my arm. Rubbing my arm is not going to do anything. My blood pressure went up; my heart rate went up."

She said her husband attempted to give her the pump she needed, but was told to leave.

"I needed my pump," Webb said. "She told my husband get out of there, and told them to call the police (on him)."

Webb said the police understood her husband was just trying to help her in her crisis. The incident compelled the couple to question Garcia's skills.

"After looking at her skills, my husband sent a letter to the Texas Board of Nursing. They did the investigation," Webb said, noting the letter was sent on Aug. 23, 2017. "The investigation came back, (revealing that) she didn't have a license."

Webb said she was horrified by the news. The nursing board notified her of the results in a letter in November, prior to informing the public in their latest bulletin edition, which just printed in January.

"For two to three weeks while (another) nurse was on vacation, she was on the floor taking care of the patients, like 15 patients," Webb said. "We had been at that clinic for two to three weeks without a licensed nurse."

Webb said she has a central venous catheter (CVC) that only a dialysis nurse can activate.

"She was messing with it, not knowing what she was doing," Webb said.

As a result, Webb said she had nine surgeries.

"I said, 'When you kept my catheter off, you were supposed to put heparin in there to keep it from clotting,'" Webb recalled. "She was not putting heparin in there. I was probably having surgeries maybe twice a week to get a catheter taken out and replaced. It was just ridiculous."

COMPELLED TO ACT

Webb feels Garcia's alleged impersonation could have killed her, along with other patients in her care. Thus, she felt compelled to report the purported nurse to the board for investigation.

"I could've just left and went somewhere else. My main concern was for other people that couldn't go somewhere else," Webb said. "I went this far because of people that are still there that don't have family members. I felt like I was obligated to do so.

"I just knew something wasn't right when she decided she wasn't going to take my cardiologist order and stop that dialysis," Webb added. "When she wanted me to go more, it caused me problems. I said, 'If you start messing with my valves in my heart, I'm not going to be able to get a transplant. You're getting ready to mess me up.'"

Webb was so distraught by the ordeal that she went a step further and filed a grievance with the End Stage Renal Disease Network of Texas Inc., regarding the care that she received from Davita. The network is authorized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to investigate grievances filed by or on behalf of people who receive dialysis or kidney transplant services in Texas. The network informed Webb on Thursday that they have referred her grievance to the Texas Department of State Health Services for review.

MOVING FORWARD

Webb said the treatment she received from the reported unauthorized nurse has left her emotionally stressed.

"I guess it's going to be something that's probably going to take time for me," she said. "I went into a depression thinking that all this stuff I went through was unnecessary. I was trying to explain to her I needed help and she wasn't listening.

"Even to this day, I still have a problem with trusting nurses and any doctor in any facility," she added. "I'm wondering if this person is really licensed. It has really affected me."

Webb said not only did Garcia improperly treat her, but she also had poor bedside manners.

"She was very rude, very arrogant, very argumentative," Webb said. "She would tell you, 'I understand you're older than me but I know what I'm doing. If you don't like how I'm doing it, you need to find you somewhere else to go.'"

Webb's husband, who has been with her throughout the duration of her treatments, echoed her sentiments.

"I'm the one that's been with her pretty much every time," he said. "It has been a life-altering experience. She violated her in more ways than one.

"I just want to see my wife on the road to recovery and see things handled appropriately, where justice is served," he said.

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