Family says 44-year-old Kansas man died after waiting three days for an ICU bed occupied by COVID-19 patients

Kansas man, 44, dies after minor routine surgery went awry as all ICU beds filled with COVID patients as infections rise in state

  • Robert Van Pelt, 44, died after waiting three days for an ICU bed to open after being flatlined during a routine medical procedure under light anesthesia
  • Van Pelt was resuscitated and taken to the nearest hospital on a life flight, but was unable to receive care because COVID patients took up too many hospital beds
  • His family said hospitals in Kansas reached 20 states to find only one available ICU bed, but not a single ICU bed was open and emergency rooms were full
  • According to the HHS, 77.34 percent of all ICU beds — or 65,642 of the 84,935 staffed beds — are currently in use nationwide.


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A family says a Kansas man who required critical care after a routine procedure died while waiting for an ICU place because too many COVID patients took up beds.

Robert Van Pelt, 44, died after waiting three days for an ICU bed to open after being flatlined while undergoing a routine medical procedure under light sedation, his family said in a statement. GoFundMe established to pay funeral expenses.

After several minutes without oxygen, Van Pelt was revived and had to be taken to the nearest emergency hospital with a heart team, but he was unable to receive immediate care because COVID patients took up too many hospital beds.

Robert Van Pelt, 44, (pictured) died after waiting three days for an ICU bed to open after being flatlined during a routine medical procedure under light sedation

Robert Van Pelt, 44, (pictured) died after waiting three days for an ICU bed to open after being flatlined during a routine medical procedure under light sedation

Robert Van Pelt's family mourns father and husband after he was unable to find an open ICU bed due to an influx of COVID-19 patients filling hospitals

Robert Van Pelt's family mourns father and husband after he was unable to find an open ICU bed due to an influx of COVID-19 patients filling hospitals

Robert Van Pelt’s family mourns father and husband after he was unable to find an open ICU bed due to an influx of COVID-19 patients filling hospitals

‘There are many people who do not believe that the hospitals are full. That’s really hard to listen to when the husband of one of my friends was dying in a hospital because he couldn’t get the treatment he needed because the beds were full,” family friend Liz Hamer said. KWCH.com

His family said hospitals in Kansas reached 20 states to find just one available ICU bed, but not a single ICU bed was open and emergency rooms were full.

“The family will never know if having an open hospital bed or open neuroICU beds, especially in one of the 20 states, could have found urgent care,” Hamer said. “They’ll never know if that could have kept him here. And that is something they now find it extra difficult to bear.’

By the time St. Francis Hospital in Wichita had an ICU bed open for Van Pelt, it was too late for the 44-year-old.

Van Pelt’s story may be more common now that the COVID spike, fueled by the highly contagious delta strain, has left thousands of Americans hospitalized and on critical care.

His family said hospitals in Kansas reached 20 states to find only one available ICU bed, but not a single ICU bed was open and emergency rooms were full

His family said hospitals in Kansas reached 20 states to find only one available ICU bed, but not a single ICU bed was open and emergency rooms were full

His family said hospitals in Kansas reached 20 states to find just one available ICU bed, but not a single ICU bed was open and emergency rooms were full

Family friend Liz Hamer (photo) says Van Pelt's family wants to spread awareness about the current state of hospitals

Family friend Liz Hamer (photo) says Van Pelt's family wants to spread awareness about the current state of hospitals

Family friend Liz Hamer (photo) says Van Pelt’s family wants to spread awareness about the current state of hospitals

On Tuesday, the US registered 135,245 cases of COVID-19 with a seven-day moving average of 151,005, a 145% increase from the 61,451 average reported four weeks ago.

Deaths also rose with 1,405 virus-related fatalities on Tuesday and a seven-day moving average of 1,043, a peak of 320% from the average of 248 reported 28 days ago.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 77.34 percent of all ICU beds — or 65,642 of the 84,935 staffed beds — are currently in use nationwide.

Of the beds in use, 36.6 percent, or 24,084, are used to treat COVID-19 patients.

Doctors say many of the patients they see are younger people who have not been vaccinated compared to older, high-risk patients seen before during the pandemic.

Hamer says that Van Pelt’s family wants to make people aware of the current state of hospitals.

“People need to understand that this is a real danger to families,” she told KWCH.com. “Car accidents happen, heart attacks happen, traumas happen, and there may not be care for you in the hospital if we can’t get this under control.”

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