This opinion submission was taken from a comment left on our most recent article, “Kaweah Health CEO defends hospital amidst open state investigation,” by the parents of Victor Krumdick, Victor Robert and Gillian Mary Krumdick.
In the process of reporting on Kaweah Health’s recent hospital inspection, the Valley Voice was able to confirm that Krumdick was the contracted employee, identified in a hospital inspection report as “Scribe 1,” who died of a propofol overdose at the hospital.
The Voice chose not to name or contact the family out of respect for their loss.
This piece has only been reformatted for clearer reading and no content has been edited.
On the night of December 21,22 of last year our precious son Victor (32) died while on shift in the Emergency Room at Kaweah Delta Hospital. Nine months later, my wife and I and our daughter Corrie are still trying to pick up the pieces left behind by this terrible tragedy and with some small progress, we are trying to recover our own broken hearts and minds.
Unlike what we hear about daily in our news, I am not in the slightest trying to exonerate Victor. Our son was guilty of stealing medicine (propofol) and accidentally administering a lethal dose. Obviously, his actions caused his own death and that has profoundly affected those of us who remain behind.
Prompted by months of deep soul searching, the ensuing pain and devastation, waiting months for the final autopsy report, the most hurtful utter silence of the hospital administration, and the chance look at two newspaper articles in July, I have chosen to tell you Victor’s story from our perspective. As in the telling of any story, ours is a biased view, that of a grieving mother and father. Victor’s sister, coworkers, and dear friends from other seasons of his life would perhaps tell a different tale, but this is our story to tell.
Another Victor Krumdick is born
Buddy was born on March 5, 1988 in South Lake Tahoe, Ca. He was the forth and last generation of the Victor Krumdicks. We named our son after my Dad and after his Welsh Grandpa Taid (Robert). I remember bringing him home from the hospital, holding him in my arms and asking my wife, “What are we supposed to do with it?” For the next 32 years, I strove to be the best possible Dad that I could be, notwithstanding my many shortcomings and failures. Our son always had a soft, gentle side. He was compassionate, and mature at a young age. He loved playing the fiddle (violin) for his Uncle Bob and in general, he loved life. He also loved to travel. As a young boy, he was able to travel with us to his mom’s hometown of llandudno in North Wales… these times put the travel bug in Buddy’s young heart.
When he was 17, he took his first job as a loader at UPS. I never knew the circumstance, but he had a bad fall and injured his back. Buddy spent the next fifteen years of his life in constant, often excruciating pain. As any of you who have dealt with such incapacitating pain know, this led to a lifelong battle with pain medicine, addiction, bogus alternative medicine treatments, back surgery and the like.
Ironically, our son was a survivor of many very difficult challenges in his life. Yet, he was determined to make it on his own but after a lot typical life obstacles, setbacks, heartaches, and challenges, my wife and I Invited Buddy back home. For the next four years, that became a refuge and a safe place for our son to sort out life’s issues.
A Miraculous Turn of Events
About that same time, I had asked Buddy to come help me clean up my lifelong friend’s back yard. I’ll call him C. He had the most severe case of Parkinson’s Disease that I have ever witnessed. C chose to live on his own, but as his disease progressed, he had more and more trouble taking care of his own needs. C had lots of falls and his body and his home reflected it. Anyway, when we knocked the door… we heard a thud, but no answer. When I went inside, I found C lying in his own blood, tooth missing and of scrapes and lacerations on his face. Needless to say, yardwork was out for the day and we headed off to the Kaweah Delta Emergency Room. While waiting with C in triage, I happened to notice a of couple scribes, following patients and doctors around. I said to Buddy that their job looked like a great one and that he should look into it. Buddy agreed. He did so immediately, and to his surprise, there were two openings. Out of several hundred applications, our son landed one of those jobs! Ever since, I have reminded C that if he hadn’t crashed and fell that day, Buddy would have never begun his life changing experience.
New Life in the ER
Working in the ER, profoundly changed our son’s life. Buddy still had his life challenges and all the drama that accompanied him. He still had his pain, his clinical anxiety and depression and his sleeplessness. But, this young man changed. He discovered his calling. He found a whole new family in the ER. He would come home after a shift and tell me all the stuff that went on about his new friends and in general about the craziness that accompanies life as a worker in the ER.
Victor had decided to become a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) as that would likely be his shortest route into becoming an ER doctor. He had completed almost three years of his AA requirements and was working hard at his math and science classes. He was on his way. Sadly, about three weeks after Buddy died, he received his EMT certificate in the mail.
Buddy also became our intern family doctor. He helped so much with the caretaking of his Mayme… my mom. Whenever, any family member had ailments, he was on top of it… inexperience not withstanding!
Most important to Victor was his new family. How they loved Victor and he loved them! From the most menial worker to the honcho doctors and everyone in between, Buddy had a special way of communicating and making others feel their own worth and importance in the midst of their own life struggles.
Buddy Victor was on his new path. He would dream of his future success. He assured Gill and I that wherever we ended up in our old age, he would be nearby to take care of us. He dreamed of taking his mom traveling. Life for all of us, was not easy but we saw daylight our son’s future and that gave us some hope.
The Days Leading Up to Dec 21,22
Early December is a busy time and for Buddy, that was no exception. The hustle and bustle of Christmas time was upon us. Buddy loved Christmastime and plans were in full swing. Buying gifts and preparing for our Roast Beast and Buddy’s Welsh Trifle recipe… Victor had a couple of difficult science finals and he was stressing about that. On one day he had a final, our son spent eight hours helping our friend and severely ill neighbor try to get the medical attention she needed. That was our son, willing to set aside his stuff to help another. Plus, he was working overnights at the ER so he wasn’t getting proper rest. To make matters worse, his back pain had again become unbearable. All of which led to more anxiety for our son. Perhaps the hardest thing for Buddy was that Gill and I had asked him to consider moving to my sister’s place. She was living in the country outside of town and needed a roommate. Maybe that was the final stressor, I’ll never know. But I have sure battled with the wonderings and guilt of that.
A couple of days before Buddy died, we were driving down Mooney Blvd and I looked at him… he was hurting in a lot of ways. I told him that whatever he decided on the move, that Mom and I had been so blessed to have him back in our home. I told Victor that when he left home after high school, we felt like he was ripped away from us but we both felt that our Heavenly Father had given us back some of those years. We were both a little teared up but he said to me, “I feel the same way Dad”.
When Buddy left for work, normally he would stick his head in our room, we would roll our eyes at each other acknowledging what the shift might bring, then we would say “ I love you” to each other and off he would go. That night, he seemed so exhausted physically, mentally, and spiritually…
It was about 3 a.m. on the morning of December 22 when Gill and I received the call. There had been an incident at the hospital involving Victor and we needed to get down there right away. The only problem was that because my car was in the shop, our son had taken our only car with him to work that evening.
We won’t forget that night. It was about 25 degrees outside while Gill and I waited on the street for a taxi to come pick us up. It took about 35 minutes for the cab to arrive.
All that time, Gill and I were standing out shivering in the cold, holding each other knowing that something was terribly wrong… somehow knowing the worst had taken place. We met our daughter, Miss Corrie, at the hospital and were promptly ushered into a room with about five other people. We were told that there had been an incident involving some missing drugs. A lockdown of the ER ensued and our son was seen on the video taking the medicine. After quite a lengthy search, Buddy was found dead in a locked ER bathroom. He had overdosed on a drug called propofol. We were in that room for twenty minutes or so while we were asked questions about our son… questions about his anxiety and depression, I informed them of his intense battle with his pain, they asked if Buddy was suicidal.
Then, we were allowed to go in and see his body. Victor’s spirit had obviously flown and his body was cold to the touch… he had been dead a while. That time was very upsetting yet very precious to us. Our son finally looked at peace. We held him, kissed him, and said our goodbyes to our very special “baby Buddy Victor”.
The chaplain as a kind man, trying to console us, but in the end there really weren’t any words of comfort. There was simply a surrealistic shock of disbelief and a great emptiness. Our Buddy was gone. The sheriff’s corner continued to ask questions, gave us some information on suicide help groups, to which Gill adamantly responded, “my son did not commit suicide”.
And then we went home.
The Memorial Service and the Notebook
Following the next days of utter shock and almost disbelief, Miss Corrie arranged a small memorial service for our son. She and some friends set up a very nice arrangement at our friends coffee shop, Le Boulevard, two houses down from our home. I had told our daughter that our prime concern was to make a place available for Victor’s ER family to come and pay their respects. We couldn’t have asked for a more kind, sensitive, and compassionate time both to honor Victor and to express our appreciation for his friends. We were able to meet so many people that our son had talked about during the past few years A few of our friends stopped by as well as some of Buddy’s old friends. We were blessed. It was good and it was bittersweet.
A little over a month after Buddy’s passing, I was contacted by one of his co-workers. Apparently, they had set aside a place where his friends and fellow workers could come and grieve their loss and also write little notes or post photos of them or our son. I was asked if we would be interested in having a photo album of those things… obviously we gratefully accepted. It is a treasure to us, a wonderful reminder of Victor’s life in the ER.
Months of Utter Silence
Basically, the next six or seven months were a time of grieving as is common with anyone who has tragically lost a loved one, particularly a son or daughter. Anger, acceptance, questioning our Heavenly Father’s purposes, and the total silence from people whom we once considered dear friends. The silence of the hospital administration was their worst possible decision for our family. Absolutely not one contact from the higher echelons of Kaweah Delta administration. I believe that decision showed a lack of courage and professionalism which only cast more doubt as to what actually transpired with the mishandling of medication at the hospital. Obviously, the entire ER staff was put on some sort of gag order as an investigation ensued. And other than an initial death certificate… pending toxicology, nothing from the coroner. It was as if my little family was living in a sheltered bubble… and for Miss Corrie and I it was a very angry and dangerous bubble.
After months of bouts of wailing grief and /or utter silence, I finally shared my truest and deepest thoughts with my brother Kurt and sisters Laura and Jennifer. I broke down in a flood of sorrow, grief, broken heartedness, and the intense realization of broken dreams and futures. Seemingly, we were all turning the corners of grief and were coming out of this unhealthy limbo we were in the midst of.
The Newspaper Articles
That is until July 21, 2121. I was coming home from the gym and I stopped to pick up a couple things from the store. On my way out, I glanced at the newspaper rack and noticed a headline from the Sun-Herald: “Kaweah Health ED delayed by staffing, “diversion” events”. I bought the paper. The article was written by Ben Irwin. The paper quoted Kaweah Delta CEO Gary Herbst. I quote: “In December 2020, at the height of the pandemic when Kaweah Health had 170 COVID patients in acute care was nearing 100% capacity, the scribe snuck into the emergency department around midnight. He found an empty room where an IV of a common sedative known as propofol was still hanging from a patient who had passed away a few hours before….the scribe found a syringe in the room, extracted some of the sedative and then went to an employee bathroom where he was found unresponsive next to the syringe and later pronounced dead shortly after”. Obviously, the scribe spoken about was our son. And the CEO, in our view, made him out to be nothing more than a common criminal. Thank you for nothing, Gary… but for directly causing more pain and suffering. I have a couple things to clarify Gary. First, Victor was on shift that night working among your covid patients. He was among those health care workers that were once labeled heroes during the pandemic. Second, the way you described the event was morbid and it portrayed Victor as some sicko. Maybe, rather than describing your “diversion event” you might have been a little more careful in your description and presumed knowledge of what likely happened… instead of protecting your so called hospital reputation and justifying why your new ER was delayed. You made your statement in such a way that Victor was made your patsy for the mismanagement of hospital medications and late opening of the ER.
Needless to say, my family was enraged at both the distorted accusations, the pretense of anonymity with which our son was dealt, and the zero effort to communicate with us. I believe you slandered a good, but hurting young man and indirectly, our entire family. Shame on you.
While still trying to work through that article, I find myself back shopping the following Tuesday and the Times-Delta on July 27 had a front page headline, “Drug Thefts, Lack of Nurses” an article written by Joshua Yeager. The article, although slightly less descriptive, told of Buddy stealing propofol from a used iv bag, took it into an ER bathroom and administered a lethal dose to himself.
Again, it appeared that Gary Herbst was using the incident of my son’s death as a primary reason his new ER facility took so long to be up and running. Once again, I do not condone my son’s foolish action. He was of making some very poor choices and it cost him his life. But please remember the context of our son heading off to work that night. Further, for Gary to imply that the ER was endangering patients because of our son’s poor choice is simply a crock of shit… a “diversion” of your own, if you will. Our son or any other staff worker should have never been allowed to access such medicine. (for the reader a note: I believe you can find this same type of problem in any hospital across our nation… happens all the time.) Spin it as you may, there is a culpability that lies with you and your administrative staff, Gary.
The following week, I contacted the Sheriff’s Coroner and asked him if he had concluded his autopsy report. He had, I went down to the courthouse and obtained the amended certificates. The coroner ruled Buddy’s death accidental. There was enough uncertainty in his findings to not rule his death a suicide. To me, it didn’t much matter… our son is gone. But to my wife, family, and friends the ruling left some small sort of consolation. Those who knew Buddy, they would tell you he was never suicidal and despite his difficulties, he was very much looking to what the future held for him and his family.
As for our family, we will take each new day as it comes. We put our faith and hope not in the things of this world, but in the promises of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He will sustain us, heal us, comfort us, and perhaps bring us to a place of peace and joy once again.
So, I conclude our story of our son Victor Robert Krumdick. I very much appreciate all of you who took the time to read this account. I ask you to make your own judgements and conclusions. I have so much to share, but this is not the time and place. Gary, you lost one of your own and by all appearances, you made him the fall guy. Running a hospital that the entire community supports and is proud of is not that difficult. My advice to you is that you would always start with the utmost awareness, care, and safety of your employees, treat your people first. In the long run, your incoming patients will always be much better off. If our son’s death causes you to become a better CEO and helps prevent others like Victor from getting themselves into trouble, and as you learn more about him, perhaps his story could become lessons that other workers could glean from. Then perhaps, Buddy Victor’s life and death in The Kaweah Delta Emergency Room will not end up all for naught.
Lastly, I remind the readers that this is a story by distraught and grieving parents. There is always more to every story. But I can tell you this: Although we are so sorry for the way Buddy Victor’s life ended, Gill and I loved our son so much. It was a blessing, honor, and a privilege to have birthed and raised our wonderful son.
Thank you for reading his story.
Victor Robert and Gillian Mary Krumdick