The relatives of a recently deceased woman have filed suit against the nursing home where she was living at the time of her death, alleging she died after pulling out her breathing tube.

Christopher J. Flentke and Daniel J. Flentke allege Virginia Vitzdamm was living at defendant Willow Creek Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on Dec. 29 when she pulled out the tracheotomy tube that allowed her to breathe. By the time employees located Vitzdamm, she was not breathing, according to the complaint filed Oct. 27 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

Immediately after she was found, Vitzdamm was rushed to Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead, the suit states.

The Flentkes blame the nursing home for allowing Vitzdamm to pull the tube from her neck, saying it failed to properly secure the tube and failed to set an alarm that should have alerted employees of the fact that Vitzdamm had pulled the tube, the complaint says.

The Flentkes allege Vitzdamm had experienced other problems while living at Willow Creek Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, where she had been residing since Nov. 2, 2010.

For example, Vitzdamm was transferred to St. Elizabeth's Hospital on Nov. 29 after she began vomiting and showing signs of aspiration of tube feedings and a urinary tract infection, the complaint says.

After Vitzdamm was discharged from the hospital on Dec. 1, she was placed in a Hoyer lift and subsequently dropped by Willow Creek's employee, according to the complaint. As a result, she suffered bruising and skin tears, the suit states.

The Flentkes allege the nursing home abused Vitzdamm in other ways, also. For instance, its employees failed to properly feed and bathe her, failed to properly secure her in the lift, failed to employ an adequate number of staff, failed to train its staff on appropriate transportation techniques and failed to establish protocols regarding placement in a Hoyer, the complaint says.

In their complaint, the Flentkes seek a judgment of more than $100,000, plus costs and attorney's fees.

Lanny Darr of Schrempf, Kelly, Napp and Darr in Alton will be representing them.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 11-L-606.

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