Michael L. "Mike" Herrera, the co-founder of a popular chain of Tex-Mex restaurants across North Texas, left in the midst of a golf game to seek emergency medical attention for severe stomach pains. He arrived at Parkland Memorial Hospital at about 4 p.m. Friday, and waited an estimated 19 hours.
On that day, he was one of 270 people who checked into Parkland's ER. By the time doctors could see him, he went into a fatal cardiac arrest.
"He's not here because they let him die, pretty much," said Edward Marquez, Herrera's nephew.
Marquez said he watched for an hour as paramedics, not doctors, tried to revive him. He said his entire family cannot understand how such a renowned trauma center could allow a dying patient to sit for nearly a day without help.
"That's awful to know that people are treated that way," he said.
Parkland President Dr. Ron Anderson said his deepest sympathies go out to the Herrera family.
"There are people going over this with a fine tooth comb now - our quality review teams, our physicians [and] our nurses," he said.
He said he will be the first to admit that too many patients spend too many hours waiting in the ER. However, he said he knows enough about Herrera's case to say he never appeared sick enough to die.
"The decision was made that he was a level five patient and not somebody critically ill," he said. "If he had been critically ill they would have moved him back very quickly."
Meanwhile, Herrera's family said they are speaking out to let the public know that the long waits in ER are not just an inconvenience, they can be deadly.
"If someone can be helped by this I think he would be happy," Marquez said.