Tests on U.S. hospital worker's body inconclusive
WüRZBURG, Germany — The first round of tests by German pathologists has failed to determine why an American food-services worker at the U.S. Army Hospital in Würzburg died Dec. 27, a day after coming down with a serious fever.
The hospital’s spokesman, Roger Teel, said the results — released Friday by the city’s health department — didn’t show what caused the death of Steven Braxton, 38, who had worked as a dishwasher and food server at the hospital since May 2001.
Teel said, though, that the tests did rule out bacterial meningitis, an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord that mimics the flu and can cause death quickly.
So far, Teel said, the health department investigation has shown no reason to suspect those who came in contact with Braxton before his death have any reason to fear infection. But he said the hospital has urged any workers who show similar symptoms to report to the emergency room quickly.
“There’s a level of concern,” Teel said. “We have to look into this and find out what’s going on.”
He said doctors are hoping a second group of tests will reveal what caused Braxton to succumb so quickly. But he said the hospital’s pathologist warned they may never know for certain.
“Sometimes these things just happen,” Teel said.
Rosetta Parker, Braxton’s supervisor, said he felt ill during his shift Dec. 26 and went home early that afternoon. The next day, he was dead.
“He never wanted to miss work. He hadn’t been sick at all,” Parker said. “[Thursday] he said he wasn’t feeling well, so we let him go home. We didn’t know he was that sick.”
Teel said Braxton’s wife, Anna, had twice called medical personnel to the family’s home in the Würzburg suburb of Veitshöchheim as his fever and flulike symptoms grew worse. On the second visit, they found his body in the bathroom.
Teel said a German doctor at the scene at first advised family members and co-workers to take antibiotics as a precaution.
Military police relayed that advice to hospital commanders, Teel said, but they decided to wait until pathologists could determine what caused Braxton’s death.
Instead, they told hospital staffers at a meeting Monday to report to the emergency room if they developed any similar symptoms.
Teel said no one has gotten sick, although Braxton’s 6-month-old son, Devin, was hospitalized after he showed signs of illness. The baby was released Thursday.
Braxton grew up in an Army family. His father, John Braxton of Indianapolis, is a retired sergeant major, and his mother, Ann, is a schoolteacher.
Braxton served in the Army from 1986-90, and Parker said he had lived in Germany ever since.
Braxton took a job at the hospital in May 2001 and met Anna while working there. They married last February.
“He was my best worker,” Parker said. “I never had to worry about anything. He would always handle it.”
She said Braxton had a terrific sense of humor and was devoted to his new wife, his 11-year-old son, Carlton, and baby Devin.
“Everybody knew he was a family man,” Parker said. “Devin was his heart. He loved that baby.”
She said his co-workers have been visiting Anna several times a day, bringing food and comfort.
They are organizing a memorial service, which will be held in the hospital’s theater at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
His body will be returned to his family for burial in his home state of Indiana.