Family searched for dad two months after nursing home evacuation to warehouse turned deadly
Ahmad Ordu searched for his father for two and a half months after his dad went missing following a botched nursing home evacuation in South Louisiana during Hurricane Ida.
When a social worker called Ordu and said she was seeking his father's next of kin and found him on Facebook, Ordu feared the worst.
“I was thinking it was too late,” Ahmad Ordu, 26, told The Daily Advertiser. “I didn’t know what I was gonna walk into.”
As it turned out, Ahmad was able to eventually find his father alive, but the son believes the damage done during and after the evacuation led to his dad's untimely death just a few months later.
In August, Samuel Ordu was evacuated along with more than 800 residents from seven nursing homes owned by Bob Dean Jr. to a warehouse in Independence to ride out Hurricane Ida.
But the warehouse was ill-equipped for the number of people transported there, and there weren’t enough staff members to care for residents, according to one of several lawsuits filed against Dean.
The residents “endured horrific and inhumane conditions," according to the Louisiana Department of Health.
Details from the lawsuit:As conditions at Louisiana warehouse worsened during Ida, staff made toilets from buckets
Officials with the agency made multiple visits to the site, but Dean yelled and swore at them, ordering them to get off the property. They returned with law enforcement officials and removed the residents.
The seven nursing homes have since shut down and their licenses were revoked. Dean is facing multiple charges from the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office including cruelty to the infirmed and Medicaid fraud.
At least 15 people died after being held in the makeshift facility for days, the Associated Press reported.
About Dean's arrest:Louisiana Attorney General arrests nursing home owner
An entrepreneur in New Orleans
Samuel Ordu, a Nigerian native, had an infatuation for the United States and an ambition to emigrate, earning him the nickname “America” among friends and family.
He immigrated into the U.S. in 1982, enrolling at Southern University, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
It was there he met his wife, Stephanie Green Ordu. The two married on Christmas day in 1986.
They had two children, Ahmad and Niara. Ahmad remembers his dad, who almost always wore a suit, as a man of action and few words, with a booming voice and a presence that filled the whole house.
As an entrepreneur, Ordu had a difficult time convincing employers to look past his thick accent, so he started delivering papers as a contractor for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans. But after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, he lost his delivery business.
Over the next three years, he suffered a series of strokes and was diagnosed with vascular dementia. It wasn’t a rapid decline, Ahmad Ordu said. It was more like a staircase, sometimes dropping or rising in ability and sometimes reaching a plateau.
But by 2018, Samuel Ordu required 24-care that his family couldn’t provide. He was placed in River Palms nursing home in New Orleans.
“The entire time he was in a nursing home, it was always kind of bad," his son said. "He was already a quiet person, he couldn’t articulate like, ‘Oh, I need to use the bathroom’ and things like that. That was part of his condition.”
Things improved after Ahmad Ordu returned from an overseas military deployment and would drop-in to check on his dad.
The search for Samuel Ordu
As South Louisiana prepared for Hurricane Ida last August, Ahmad Ordu was working in Denver. His mother had evacuated to Dallas with the rest of the Ordu family, though Samuel Ordu remained behind in the care of Bob Dean’s River Palms facility.
In hindsight, Ahmad Ordu said, he could have taken his father with him but doesn’t recall that ever being an option.
Ida made landfall as a strong Category 4 storm on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the same storm that had deprived Samuel Ordu of his thriving business.
It caused widespread damage, flooding and power loss.
At the warehouse in Independence where Samuel Ordu was stuck riding out the storm, residents called out for food, water and medicine and asked to be relieved of soiled linens only for their cries to go unanswered, according to a lawsuit.
The generators that powered the oxygen concentrators weren’t working, and at one point a Louisiana Department of Health surveyor noted the site did not have adequate ventilation.
Ahmad Ordu got a phone call from his godfather who had seen Samuel Ordu on TV as the warehouse was being evacuated. The only son flew from Denver to Houston and drove the rest of the way to New Orleans. He went to the warehouse and to the nursing home, but he couldn’t find his father.
The family searched for Samuel Ordu for two and a half months before Ahmad Ordu received the call from the social worker at a facility in Minden, nearly seven hours from Samuel Ordu’s family.
Ahmad Ordu was later told by his attorneys that River Palms kept paper files on its residents. Those files were never with Samuel Ordu, his son said.
“If you didn't even have my number, and I was his primary contact for everything, how confident would you be administering the right medications to him and knowing his treatment plan?” he said.
When he got to the Minden nursing home, Ordu found his father — the man who had paved his family’s path in a new country and instilled the entrepreneurial spirit in him — disoriented and wondered if he had been eating.
“When I went in there, it was like a chess match with death,” Ahmad Ordu said.
Louisiana nursing home:Who’s responsible for Louisiana’s nursing home evacuation plans? Officials won’t say.
'I told them I had been kidnapped':Nursing home evacuees call 911 about lack of care, food
Samuel Ordu’s death
Ordu decided he would take care of his father and bring him back to the son’s home in New Orleans.
He remembered telling his father to “look alive” for a family reunion in February, weeks after the search for the ailing patriarch had finally ended.
“He held it together, and most of the family saw him, distant relatives and everything. He was able to shake their hands,” Ordu said. “It provided a lot of closure. Especially for me, but even for the family later on.”
But soon after, Samuel Ordu started presenting signs of stroke. His son brought him to the hospital.
“It was like the day before Mardi Gras, the whole city’s preparing to be in a parade and I was in the hospital,” Ahmad Ordu said.
“I took him there and then he didn’t come out.”
Ahmad Ordu read everything he could about his father’s condition. He petitioned three different medical teams to perform surgery, but Samuel Ordu was experiencing heart failure and the doctors said it was too dangerous.
Eventually, Ordu’s sister Niara came to the hospital with her three children, ages 9, 5 and 1.
“I had to pull my niece aside before she went into the room, and I had to explain to her death for the first time,” Ahmad Ordu said. “They were close to him. He was a good grandpa.”
Samuel Ordu died on April 14 at 66. His son said although Ordu had dementia, the elder abuse and medical neglect at the warehouse led to his early death.
Ahmad Ordu has joined a class-action lawsuit against Dean. He said he made the decision to join for his nieces and nephew, as well as his mother, whose grief has caused her own health to decline.
“For me, there was a bigger conversation because it’s elder abuse, it’s medical malpractice and it’s a wrongful death,” Ordu said. “From a compensation standpoint, you’re not going to bring him back.”