Bonnie Schilling was the type of person to call her husband and son and hang up immediately, just to get a rise out of them.
Her son, Alan Willis, knows that she could be ornery, and most times, he would get the brunt of it.
“She’d set a fire under you,” Willis said. “It didn’t matter who you were, if she upset you or not. But, she would give life to many people and just a few understood her.”
Willis said her at-times combative ways are no excuse for her death.
Schilling, 74, died at 1:17 a.m. Sunday at St. Francis Hospital.
Six years ago, Schilling was in a car accident that broke both her hips. Six months after that, she had a stroke that paralyzed the right side of her body and severely limited her speech. She had been in a wheelchair since.
Schilling was checked into the Good Samaritan Society Senior Living Center in Silma after her family struggled to keep up with the care she needed.
“That’s why anybody puts their loved ones in a nursing home is to ensure that they’re going to be there and their last days are going to be natural,” Willis said. “Not a tragic accident like this.”
It started around 7:15 p.m. Saturday. Staff members at Good Samaritan had Schilling in a lift machine to change her clothes and get her in bed. Something happened to anger Schilling–her hair was messed up in the process, Willis guesses–and she slapped one of the employees.
Staffers then used the lift to put her back in the wheelchair, rather than in bed, telling her she would have to wait until they were done with rounds. Forty-five minutes later, she asked to be put to bed by reportedly saying “bed.” The nurse reiterated that she would have to wait.
“The head nurse then scolded her again and told her she was going to have to wait until they were done with their rounds,” Willis said. “Well apparently, by the time they got done with their rounds, they went to go check on my mom and she was gone.”
Staff members told Willis they think she got out the back door. Schilling was in her wheelchair heading towards Highway 24, but somehow fell off her wheelchair and ended up in a cement-lined drainage culvert. Willis, who later visited the site, said the culvert was at least three to four feet deep compared with the street level.
“Say she did hit one of them or smack one of them,” Willis said. “She’s not mentally all there, and it’s a facility that’s supposed to be able to deal with those kinds of situations.”
Willis has experienced frustration from his mom before, but said making her wait to go to bed, what he sees as a means to punish her, was excessive and not effective, given his mother’s mental state.
“She’s not a child,” Willis said. “They already had her lifted on a lift to change her clothes. They could have just simply put her to bed. But, instead, they chose to put her back in the wheelchair and made her wait.”
Schilling used a wheelchair and had severe speech difficulties. Willis wonders how she was allowed to leave at night, or was able to make it outside without being stopped.
“I’m not trying to say this is a bad facility in that they abused her in any way,” Willis said. “But, they definitely neglected her. Their neglect caused her death. Absolutely, 100 percent. That alone is just tragic.”
Willis has filed a police report with the Simla Police Department and is considering his legal options.
FOX21 News reached out to the Good Samaritan facility in Simla and was referred to the national office. After repeated attempts to contact Good Samaritan Society, we have yet to hear back at the time of this posting.