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Hidden Camera Shows Dying WWII Veteran's Gasps For Help Were Ignored

Nina Golgowski
James Dempsey, 89, called for help multiple times before a nurse came to help him in an Atlanta nursing home. (11Alive)

A World War II veteran’s last breaths were among nurses who were secretly filmed laughing and failing to adequately perform CPR or call for help in a timely fashion, a disturbing video shows. 

James Dempsey, 89, was residing at Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation Center in February 2014 when he repeatedly triggered his call button while gasping for help, video recently obtained by WXIA-TV shows.

Roughly eight minutes later, a nurse comes in, raises his bed, turns off his call light and then leaves the room. Nearly an hour later, nurses called 911 but by that time it was too late.

Dempsey’s family sued the home the following year after reviewing the footage they had secretly recorded. The facility then fought to prevent the video from being released to the public, but ultimately lost, leading to it WXIA publishing it.

As the footage shows, the head nurse’s retelling of what happened that horrific morning contrasts with what appears to have actually happened.

Nursing supervisor Wanda Nuckles, in a video deposition obtained by WXIA, told an attorney for Dempsey’s family that she ran into his room and personally performed relentless chest compressions on him and that this desperate act went on until EMTs arrived.

“From the time you came in, you took over doing chest compressions … correct?” the Dempsey family’s attorney, Michael Prieto, asked her.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Until the time paramedics arrived, you were giving CPR continuously?” he asked.

“Yes,” she answered.

After being shown video of her and several other nurses walking into the room and failing to immediately assist him ― at one point they laughed and only briefly performed chest compressions ― Nuckles admitted that she had made “an honest mistake” in getting her story wrong.

Nursing supervisor Wanda Nuckles said she immediately began performing CPR on James Dempsey when he was gasping for breath, but video footage tells a different story. (11Alive)

“There was an honest mistake because I was just basing it on what I normally do,” she said of why her story and actions didn’t match up. “It was an honest mistake, that’s what I generally do.”

Asked what was so funny for them to laugh, Nuckles answered: “I have no clue. I can’t even remember all of that, as you can see.”

The nursing home was reportedly made aware of the video in November 2015 but the nurses weren’t fired until 10 months later. Two of the nurses seen in the video, including Nuckles, didn’t surrender their licenses until this September.

The Georgia Board of Nursing declined to say when it first learned of the video. It took action shortly after it was sent a link to the video by WXIA, the station reported.

Dempsey’s family has since declined interview requests citing the terms of a settlement it recently reached with the Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation Center. In an earlier 2015 interview with Atlanta station WSB-TV, Dempsey’s son, James Dempsey, expressed absolute shock and disgust over how they treated him.

“You would [have] never thought that people would just let a person die,” he told WSB-TV.

A spokesperson for Sava Senior Care, which owns the facility, told WXIA that the facility has a new leadership team that has worked to improve the “quality of life for our residents.” The spokesperson added that the Georgia Department of Health found the facility deficiency-free during its last inspection in May.

HuffPost’s attempts to reach Sava Senior Care, the Georgia Board of Nursing and Nuckles on Sunday for comment were not immediately successful. 

The Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation Center has a “much below average” rating by Medicare and an overall poor rating by U.S. News and World Report.

Since 2014, it has received 48 complaints that resulted in citations and has paid three fines totaling $829,201, according to Medicare’s website.

According to an online obituary for Dempsey, he was a veteran of the U.S. Navy and retired from the Georgia Army National Guard.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.