Gwinnett County

Man dies of possible meningitis after being sent home from Piedmont ER 3 times, partner says

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — The family of a Gwinnett County man said delayed lab tests played a role in his death.

Fourteen days is how quickly Kenneth Thomas says his partner Jermaine Nelson went from vibrant to sedated.

“Jermaine was perfectly healthy before all of this,” Thomas said.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

Thomas said Nelson started feeling ill in late January.

“He had a headache, he was nauseated and vomiting,” Thomas said.

Thomas told Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Ashli Lincoln that on Jan. 23 he took Nelson to the emergency room at Piedmont Eastside Medical Center.

Thomas said he was released and given a prescription for ibuprofen and diagnosed with the flu.

“I take him home and he continues to get worse,” Thomas said.

Thomas brought him back six days later, and then again on Jan. 31.

Both times, Thomas said doctors wouldn’t admit Nelson and sent him home with more prescriptions.

Channel 2 Action News obtained medical records that show on his first visit, Nelson’s pulse was 95.

By his third visit, it had dropped to 65.

But, Thomas said it was during the fourth visit a doctor told him the lab system had been down at the hospital for a couple of weeks.

Thomas showed Lincoln paperwork that indicated Nelson’s lab results were still in progress.

“There was no notification at any point of the findings in his blood,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the ER doctor told him they were taking blood work to a neighboring Piedmont Hospital.


Thomas said he witnessed seeing medical staff place blood on ice.

When the results came back, Nelson said doctors discovered a fungus in Nelson’s blood and said it was possible he had meningitis.

Thomas said at that point Nelson was admitted but soon declined rapidly.

Nelson was brain-dead before passing away on Feb. 6.

“This battle is so heavy I’m giving it to God,” Thomas said.

Channel 2 reached out to Piedmont Hospital they sent a statement saying;

“Although we cannot provide any information about the patient’s care and/or test results, we can tell you that in any event when a lab system is down, whether for routine maintenance or otherwise, we have backup systems and resources readily available. This means that our clinical teams and the patients they serve always receive the results they need in a timely manner.”

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]