A relative of the woman who was allegedly given a fatal injection by a nurse at Prince George's General Hospital said yesterday that he is still trying to make sense of her death.
Bernard Stomer, 71, said he took his sister-in-law Elinor S. Dickerson to the hospital in September to be examined after a fall. She underwent emergency surgery the next day for another ailment, and she never regained consciousness after the operation. Then a few days later, he said, hospital officials called to tell him that Dickerson was dead, the victim of a massive heart attack.
"It's something I just can't understand," he said.
After the surgery, Stomer said, he visted Dickerson several times. "I would talk to Elinor, I'd say, 'Get your act together, honey.' Once she opened her eye -- there was a slight nod of her head," he recalled. But her doctor told him her condition was grave, he said.
Stomer said a Prince George's police detective came to his Alexandria apartment Wednesday to tell him that police were investigating Dickerson's death. Stomer said the officer was "interested in how many times I went to the hospital and did I talk to this nurse Jane F. Bolding." He said the police did not expressly tell him that they believed Dickerson had been slain.
Police charged Bolding Wednesday with first-degree murder after she allegedly told them she injected Dickerson with enough potassium to induce a heart attack, to end the woman's pain and suffering. Dickerson died Sept. 29.
Stomer said he saw Bolding on television this week but did not recognize her. He said he usually went to visit Dickerson in the morning and spoke more often with intensive-care doctors than with nurses. Bolding usually worked the evening shift, according to hospital employes.
Stomer said he and Dickerson grew up in the same neighborhood in Northwest Washington. At one time, Dickerson, who married twice, was a nurse's aide at a hospital in Baltimore, he said.
After the elderly woman's mother and sister died in the late 1970s, "Elinor was left with nobody," said Stomer, a widower. He said that in recent years he became closer to Dickerson, a withdrawn woman who lived alone in an apartment building for senior citizens in Oxon Hill.
The brother-in-law, a retired hotel manager, said Dickerson, who weighed only about 100 pounds for most of her life, had not been in good health. "She was a diabetic, and her eyesight was pretty bad," he said, adding that she had heart bypass surgery about four years ago.
Stomer, himself weak from recent surgery, said Dickerson called him at 2:30 one morning last September. "She said she got up for a glass of water . . . she passed out and struck her head on the kitchen floor," he said. Stomer recalled that she did not want him to come over; but the next day, on the advice of her doctor, Stomer took Dickerson to the emergency room of Prince George's General Hospital, where she was admitted for observation and, later, surgery.
Dickerson's physician, Dr. David Goldman, said last evening that the woman was admitted to the hospital and underwent emergency surgery -- for intestinal bleeding, he thought. He said he could not remember the details of the case because he had not reviewed her records recently.
Stomer said that after Dickerson died, he called her two daughters, who live out of town, to notify them. But he said it was even more difficult when he called them again this week to tell them that Dickerson may have been slain.
Stomer said he has heard of people killing gravely ill relatives in the hospital but that he cannot quite accept the notion. "I don't go along with a person killing a person," he said.
In a telephone call placed to his home in Texas yesterday, Dickerson's son-in-law Frank Thomas said he had spoken with police about Dickerson's death but did not wish to comment.
However, Dickerson's daughter Elinor Snead, who lives in Virginia, said, "It's devastating to be put through this all over again."