AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A woman is speaking out after a deadly incident at an Augusta personal care home. The daughter of a victim hospitalized during the extremely high temperatures inside that facility told NewsChannel 6 she wants to be a voice.
“My mom just said that it kept getting hotter and hotter and hotter to the point where she felt like her skin was on fire,” Melissa LeEllen told us.
Susan Stiles can count making it out of her personal care home alive a miracle.
“I think one of my patients is not living. She has blood coming out of her nose,” stated the caller. NewsChannel 6 obtained the 911 tape from the day the call was placed at the facility.
Hear full 911 call below.
“She said that her roommate was gasping for breath because it was so hot in the house. My mom said it felt like she was on fire, like she was burning,” LeEllen said about her mother’s experience at the home. “She was able to get up during the night and open a window. I believe that is what really saved her and her roommate’s life. Actually, the air went over to another room and I think that’s what saved a couple of their lives.”
Stiles, a 70-year-old mother with mental health issues, survived but two others died and four people, including Stiles, went to the hospital in the six person capacity facility on Wrightsboro Road. The District Attorney’s Office reports it was 138 degrees inside First Love Personal Care Home and there were high levels of carbon monoxide.
LeEllen said the staff appeared to be certified and seemed to love the patients when she moved her mother into the home six years ago.
“My mother has schizophrenia so with her episodes, we needed to get her on medication and it was just hard to do that with us just personally,” she explained.
NewsChannel 6 uncovered six inspection reports in the last three years for First Love Personal Care Home. Earlier this year in January, there was trouble with the water temperature. But despite passing its July inspection, LeEllen said First Love had issues before.
Search inspection reports for personal care homes in Georgia here.
“In 2018, my mom complained of bed bugs. She said they came in and were taking care of it,” LeEllen said.
Across its three Augusta facilities, there are more than 30 inspection reports. And many have issues with staff documentation such as lack of training. But this report from May of last year on its Old Savannah Road facility shows no grab bars for residents in the bathroom, no fire extinguisher and the water temperature exceeded 120 degrees.
Atlanta Attorney Scott Zahler hopes to help LeEllen with her case.
“It appears there has been a shocking pattern and practice of abuse and neglect of these elder residents,” he said.
Wearing the hero cape is nothing new for Stiles as LeEllen said her mother has always been selfless and caring, graduating Valedictorian from her high school class near Burnetttown, South Carolina. She hopes her story sends a message.
She said, “I want the kids to know that there are organizations that they can go to and they can find out if there are any violations against the home.”
The Richmond County coroner said autopsies were set for Wednesday for the two people who died. But results could take several weeks due to toxicology being involved.
We will continue to follow this story.
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