An East Texas nurse working the night shift at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owens Heart Hospital intentionally injected air into arterial lines of patients recovering from heart surgery, causing them stroke-like symptoms and in at least one case death, according to Tyler police.
William George Davis, 34, of Hallsville, is in the Smith County Jail on $2 million bond on a murder charge related to the death of Christopher Greenaway, 47, on Aug. 6, 2017, while he was a patient at the hospital.
Tyler Police Chief Jimmy Toler during a news conference Wednesday said Davis could face additional charges for similar incidents involving six other patients at the heart hospital, another one of whom also died.
The incidents date back to June 22, with the most recent occurring Jan. 25.
Davis worked for Christus Mother Frances Hospital - Tyler for five years and was terminated Feb. 15, about a week after hospital officials went to police with their concerns. Prior to that, he worked for Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview from 2011-13. All the incidents included in the arrest warrant affidavit occurred at Christus Mother Frances Hospital-Tyler.
"The patients were post-operative cardiovascular surgery patients who were progressing on a Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit when they suddenly experienced a profound incident," according to an arrest affidavit in the case. "The events all occurred on the night shift and a person of interest emerged as William 'Will' Davis, a registered nurse on the CVICU."
The affidavit indicates Tyler police investigators looked at staffing and payroll records and determined that Davis was the only nurse assigned to the CVICU at the date and time of each incident. They also reviewed hospital security footage pertaining to the seven incidents and observed Davis entering the room of three patients who suffered episodes within minutes of him leaving their room.
“We only have one person of interest, and that person is now in custody,” Toler said. “I want to stress the cooperation from the DA’s office and Christus has been beneficial. There is no reason for us to believe that anyone else was associated with this.”
In the most recent incident, involving a 58-year-old man recovering from bypass surgery, hospital video surveillance footage shows Davis entering the patient's room at the time corresponding to the arterial line disruption, then leaving the room and going to the nurses' station, where he remained while multiple nurses responded to the alarms going off in the patient's room.
"After several minutes (he) finally approaches the commotion but never enters the patient's room," according to a radiologist's report cited in the arrest affidavit.
The patient "continued to have a rather poor hospital course and subsequently a tracheostomy tube was placed. The need for long-term care was discussed and will likely be necessary," according to the report. The affidavit indicates the patient continues to receive medical and rehabilitative support and cannot speak or feed himself.
A 63-year-old woman also needed long-term care with significant inpatient rehabilitation following similar circumstances after her surgery, and Davis was seen on video footage leaving her room shortly before her incident Nov. 30, according to the affidavit. The affidavit also indicates video footage captured Davis leaving the room of the first patient, a 61-year-old man, just prior to the episode he suffered June 22.
The affidavit and radiologist's report also detail the events surrounding Christopher Greenaway's death days after undergoing bypass surgery Aug. 3. He awoke from surgery and was doing well until early the next morning, when his assigned nurse took a break, believing his patient was stable, and asked Davis to watch the patient while he went to lunch.
When the nurse returned, his patient was coding and others were trying to resuscitate him. Despite medical intervention, Greenaway died two days later.
"When comparing the three patients' clinical course there are striking similarities," reads the report by Dr. Charles Crum, a board-certified radiologist retained by the district attorney's office. "It is my conclusion that this is likely ... deliberate introduction of air into the arterial circulation, via the patient's radial arterial lines."
Crum's report stated that Davis was present and working during all three events. "It is my conclusion that William George Davis causes a significant continued imminent threat to patient welfare and should have his license immediately suspended/revoked," the report states.
Davis' license was suspended March 16, according to an order from the Texas Board of Nursing.
The arrest affidavit also indicates Tyler PD met with two other doctors — the chief forensic pathologist for Forensic Medical of Texas and a Dallas-based board-certified radiologist — so they could review the medical records of the case. Both concurred Davis' actions led to Greenaway's death.
Christus Trinity Mother Frances issued a news release Wednesday saying the hospital is actively cooperating with police and working with state and national regulatory and accrediting bodies. The hospital said the situation is extraordinarily rare and impossible to anticipate.
"On January 25, we identified an unusual and unexplained patient outcome in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at Christus Mother Frances Hospital - Tyler. Because of our strong commitment to high quality care, we took swift action and performed a review of the circumstances, including reviews of any unanticipated outcomes," the statement reads. "This review produced new information that resulted in the immediate removal of nurse William Davis from all patient care responsibilities, and he was terminated by Christus. We believe the issues with Mr. Davis were isolated to him and he acted independently and of his own accord.
"Due to concerns arising out of this confidential review, we shared details with the appropriate authorities, including the Texas Board of Nursing and Tyler Police Department. We are actively cooperating with them, as well as working with state and national regulatory and accrediting bodies."
The hospital said patients or community members with questions can call 1-888-299-4868.