Family of Vietnam veteran dying from brain cancer says wedding ring went missing at Redwood City hospital

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Even as a Purple Heart recipient serving in Vietnam and later a firefighter, Bill never took off his wedding ring. Now the veteran who's dying from brain cancer was dealt another blow - the precious ring went missing inside his Redwood City hospital room. (KGO-TV)

The family of a Bay Area man, dying from brain cancer, was dealt another blow when his wedding ring went missing inside his hospital room.

"It's a very painful situation, made incredibly worse by this," says Pete Halvorsen, son of Penny and Bill Halvorsen.


He and his family have been at Kaiser Hospital in Redwood City every single day since learned his father had glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer, and has little time left.

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"The doctor said days or weeks. My mom has been by his side the entire time," Pete said.

Penny and Bill have been married 47 years, and even as a Purple Heart recipient serving in Vietnam and later a firefighter, Bill never took off his wedding ring.

Penny and Bill Halvorsen

"It's a traditional gold band, nothing flashy. On the inside, it says Bill and Penny and 12/11/1971, the day that they were married."

So you can imagine the confusion when Saturday morning, Pete and his mom looked down to find the ring missing.

"We knew it had to have been taken off, there's no way it had accidentally fallen off," he said.

Penny, who had been sleeping by her husband's bedside, did notice something uncharacteristic.

"The right side of his body is paralyzed and he was swinging with one of his hands at the nurse who was giving him a bath and the nurse said, "Don't hit me Bill, don't hit me!"


Halvorsen family photo

This led the Halvorsens to wonder if someone on the hospital staff had removed the ring.When the issue was brought up to Kaiser, their concerns seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

"We felt like we were the only ones on an island, screaming, saying help us, his ring went missing and it didn't just fall off his hand," Pete said.

Pete points to the deep indentation on my father's hand which, after three days, is still red and visible.

The media relations person at Kaiser told ABC7 News he couldn't comment on the situation and that it had to be handled by an "issues" person who would be in contact. ABC7 did not receive a call back Monday morning, but a statement was issued in the late afternoon and is provided in its entirety at the bottom of this story.

Pete says since his father is unable to speak, he took the story to Twitter. He says along with the onslaught of users sharing their own experiences of missing personal belongs at other hospitals, only then did the hospital question the nurses.


Bill Halvorsen

"They were immediately defensive," said Pete, who went on to say he felt like they were being blamed for having his father's ring in the room.

In this time of grief...added sadness. Especially for Penny.

"That was the one thing she was really looking forward to putting on her necklace and always keeping with her. The added stress that this is adding to my mom and our family is unbelievable."

Penny, Pete and the rest of their tight-knit family now just doing their best to stay upbeat and positive, for Bill's final days.

Sheila Gilson, senior vice president and area manager of Kaiser Permanente Redwood City released a statement late Monday afternoon:

"We are deeply sorry for this experience and apologize that we have been unable to locate Mr. Halvorsen's wedding ring. When we were made aware of the loss on Saturday, we began an extensive search to locate his ring, including interviewing all staff members involved in Mr. Halvorsen's care, carefully searching his room and locations where he received treatment, sifting through trash, and working with our linen supplier. We will continue our efforts, and will cooperate with any police investigation. Our hearts go out to the family during this difficult time."

It's a statement Pete and his family do not agree with- saying the hospital didn't get involved until Sunday night.
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