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A father’s desperate – but dangerous – strategy to keep his ‘brain dead’ son on life support

(Image from video via YouTube/CNN)
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“Hey, we need the police stat, to the hospital. We have a family member with a gun.”

This is the call that a staff member at Tomball Regional Medical Center put in 11 months ago, when George Pickering of Pinehurst, Tex., angrily pulled out a 9 mm handgun while standing at his son’s hospital bedside.

Gary Hammond, Tomball police’s head of criminal investigations, told the Houston Chronicle at the time that Pickering was “distraught” over the care his son, George Pickering III, was receiving. The younger Pickering was on life support after having a stroke.

According to witnesses, Pickering yelled, “I’ll kill all of you,” and pointed the gun at hospital workers. A nurse and Pickering’s ex-wife left after he reportedly said, “You don’t think that’s the only weapon I got.”

Although Pickering was quickly disarmed by another son who was also at the hospital, he refused to surrender to police officers, resulting in an hours-long standoff with SWAT officers in the hospital room, as Pickering held his son’s hand all the while.

Eventually, he was coaxed into surrendering, according to the Chronicle. The incident landed Pickering behind bars on two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon — for which he was released from jail just this month.

One of the charges was dropped and the other reduced to a state jail felony. According to CNN affiliate KPRC, Pickering was also given credit for time served.

Along with Pickering’s freedom has come a chance at redemption, as the father recently told KPRC why he felt compelled to threaten violence that day.

It was because he wanted to save his son’s life.

Pickering recounted that his son had had seizures in the past, so he knew the procedure. He also knew that contrary to what the hospital told him in January, his son wasn’t “brain dead.”

Call it father’s intuition. Something told Pickering that the hospital was wrong to order a “terminal wean,” which would have slowly removed his son from life support. According to KPRC, someone had even already notified an organ donation organization of an incoming donation.

“They were moving too fast. The hospital, the nurses, the doctors,” Pickering told KPRC. “I knew if I had three or four hours that night that I would know whether George was brain dead.”

No one was listening, Pickering said, so he bided his time the only way he could think of — by pulling out a gun.

“At that point I had blinders on,” said Pickering, who admitted that he was drunk while the incident unfolded. “All I knew I just needed to have this time with George.”

His desperate strategy worked. During the hours in which Pickering refused to leave his son’s room even at the behest of SWAT officers, he felt his son squeeze his hand several times on command. With confirmation that his son was responsive and wasn’t brain dead as doctors believed, Pickering peacefully surrendered.

In response to KPRC, officials at Tomball Regional Medical Center declined to comment on Pickering’s individual case, citing privacy laws.

In a written statement, the hospital said:

Physicians use their medical knowledge and experience to develop a patient’s plan of care and these actions save lives each day. When a patient’s condition makes them unable to participate in their own care, the appropriate substitute decision-maker has the right to decide whether or not they will move forward with a recommended care plan. However, that decision must be expressed in a way that does not endanger other patients or caregivers.

Today, George Pickering III is healthy and fully recovered, an indication perhaps of his father’s prescience. According to KPRC, the pair share “an unbreakable bond,” running a small electrical engineering business and building their own home together.

The younger Pickering, his father’s spitting image, was moved after learning about what took place.

“Everything good that made me a man is because of that man sitting next to me,” he said. “There was a law broken, but it was broken for all the right reasons. I’m here now because of it. It was love.”

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