Fans and co-stars are still mourning the loss of “True Blood” star Nelsan Ellis. The fan-favorite, who played the role of Lafayette on the hit series, passed away on Saturday at age 39.

The beloved actor’s manager, Emily Gerson Saine, later confirmed that Ellis died as a result of heart failure.

But the news left many fans wondering what caused it. Saine then revealed on Monday that Ellis had actually been hiding a dark secret – he was struggling with alcoholism.

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A new statement, released on behalf of the family to The Hollywood Reporter, said that Ellis died due to complications stemming from alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The statement read:

“Nelsan has suffered with drug and alcohol abuse for years. After many stints in rehab, Nelsan attempted to withdraw from alcohol on his own.

According to his father, during his withdrawal from alcohol he had a blood infection, his kidneys shut down, his liver was swollen, his blood pressure plummeted, and his dear sweet heart raced out of control.”

The statement went on to say that Ellis was “ashamed” of his struggle, and hid it from public view. He spent several days in Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, before before passing away. The statement read:

“On the morning of Saturday July 8th, after four days in Woodhull Hospital, Nelsan was pronounced dead. Nelsan was a gentle, generous and kind soul.”

Though the family has not opened up about Ellis’ time at Woodhull Hospital, the medical center has a troubling reputation. The facility, which is located in a low-income region of Brooklyn, has been the topic of a lot of heated discussion online.

Matthew Rutledge/Flickr

Many users on popular review sites like Yelp, have absolutely skewered the facility with negative ratings and comments.

One woman even called the hospital a “death trap” after she claims mistreatment by doctors there led to her sister’s death. The hospital ultimately apologized and reached out to her for further explanation.


And she’s not the only one calling out the hospital. Many Twitter users have also slammed the medical facility, some even calling it “awful”:

At least one family is calling for the New York State Department of Health: Office of Professional Medical Conduct Intake Unit and the New York State Education Department: Office of Professional Discipline to conduct an investigation of Woodhull Hospital after a 52-year-old woman died in their care.

In March, Tye Clemons launched a petition for the hospital to be investigated, after his family member, Claire Clemons, allegedly died as a result of pneumonia she contracted there.

Clemons claims that family members had to clean “blood and saliva” off the woman after hospital staff failed to, and were not informed that she had pneumonia until it was “already at Stage 3.”

Clemons said that Claire had initially been admitted to the hospital for treatment after cardiac arrest. He wrote:

“She entered the hospital for one reason and died from another. We want to make sure that Woodhull Hospital is investigated to ensure that no other families will have to endure the tragic experiences Crystal and her loved ones have experienced.

A hospital is a place you go to in order to get better and Woodhull staff stripped Crystal of that opportunity.”

Noah Jacquemin/Flickr

It’s unclear if the petition ever resulted in an investigation, but other cases have gone all the way to court.

In 2007, the family of 10-year-old Anna Gloria Rivera settled a decade-old lawsuit against Woodhull Hospital, according to New York Daily News. Her lungs were allegedly “blown out” during a stay at the hospital in 1998 after a doctor set her ventilator too high.

Before her death, she had been tied to the bed in a “four-point restraint” after becoming “agitated” by the ventilator, according to NYDN.

The hospital itself is located in one of the lowest income neighborhoods in the city, Bedford-Stuyvesant.

According to New York City statistics, one in three residents of the neighborhood live below the poverty line, and the majority of the population is people of color.

And that could be a major contributing factor to hospital’s quality of care.

Screenshot/Google Maps

Analysis of health and poverty conducted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2014 suggests that good doctors are more likely to work in hospitals in affluent areas, meaning that that people in poorer regions also may also receive poor care.

It’s unclear why, exactly, Ellis was sent to Woodhull Hospital in particular, or if he lived in the area at the time. But it’s where the actor spent his final moments.

According to Saine’s statement, the “True Blood” star spent four days in the medical facility before passing away as a result of heart failure.

Ellis’ family has yet to comment on his treatment during the hospital stay, but if other patients’ experiences are any indication — it might have been pretty grim.

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