One of Conrad Murray's former patients says he felt "abandoned" after the doctor told him he was leaving his practice to care solely for Michael Jackson.
The man, Las Vegas man Robert Russell, said that months beforehand, he suffered a heart attack and Murray saved his life and became his cardiologist. Russell made his comments at the involuntary manslaughter trial of Murray, who was by the King of Pop's bedside on the day he died on June 25, 2009. NOTE: You can watch the proceedings online: OnTheRedCarpet.com is hosting a LIVE STREAM of the Conrad Murray trial.Prosecutors say the doctor demonstrated "gross negligence" in his treatment of the singer and have criticized him for calling others before contacting 911 after he discovered Jackson was unconscious in his bedroom.
Russell said Murray had told him of his decision to provide medical care only for Jackson before he notified his staff and other patients and that on the day the singer died, Murray left him an "odd" voicemail at 11:49 a.m., referencing an "overseas sabbatical" (listen to the voicemail here)
Phone records have shown that the doctor ordered Jackson's bodyguard to call 911 at 12:20 p.m.
"I did feel abandoned, recognizing who he was treating and the fact that he was leaving the country," Russell said.
Autopsy results have shown that Jackson died at age 50 from an overdose of propofol, which he called his "milk," and other sedatives. Murray, had said he gave Jackson a dose of propofol as a sleeping aid in his house on the day he died and has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Murray's lawyers say he gave Jackson 25 mg of propofol on the day he died and that Jackson took lorazepam, an anti-anxiety agent, and an additional dose of propofol while the doctor was away from his bedside. Murray, who had practiced medicine in Nevada, Texas and California, faces up to four years in prison and the loss of his medical license if convicted.
Russell said that after his heart attack in March 2009, Murray operated on him and installed several stents, aimed at treating coronary artery blockages, inside his heart. He said he asked the doctor to allow him to go home that night but that he refused.
"He was quite animated in telling me that I was literally minutes from being dead," he said about Murray."
After Russell was released from the hospital, Murray then took him as an outpatient and met with him for several follow-up appointments.
"He gave me advice on exercise, on eating, just how to live my life, how to deal with pressure and stress," Russell said. "When I say he saved my life ... the advice he gave me, saved my life." Russell said that one day, the doctor revealed some news about a medical "opportunity" to care for one patient overseas.
"I asked, I hope it's Western Europe and he confirmed it was," Russell said. "I believe he told me it was Great Britain. I thought it was royalty. I thought, how great is that? What an opportunity. I was excited for him."
He said that week later, the doctor told him he "had made the decision that he was going to proceed."
"At that time it was revealed it was Michael Jackson he would care for," Russell said. "He stated he had not broken the news to his staff. My wife was present and he asked us to remain silent. He was going to let his staff know after we had departed."
Russell said Murray told him he had also cared for Jackson's children for several years and that the offer "wasn't something out of the blue" for him. Russell said he was "overjoyed" for the doctor, who he said appeared "highly excited" and "pleased."
On June 15, 2009, days before Jackson's death, Russell's wife received a call from Murray's office saying an appointment he had scheduled with the doctor was canceled. Around that time, Murray sent a letter to his Nevada patients, stating that he was leaving the medicine practice because of a "once in a lifetime opportunity."
"I was quite frustrated at that point," Russell said. "Being aware that Dr. Murray was leaving the country in the short time that elapsed since my near expiration I was quite concerned with my health. This was about my life and I wanted to know exactly where I stood. Concerned about where I would be."
The doctor suspended his regular practices in Las Vegas and Houston to take a $150,000-per-month job as Jackson's personal doctor. Russell said that on the morning Jackson died, he called Murray's office. He had established a courteous relationship with his staff members, who he had seen more regularly than the doctor himself in recent weeks.
"I expressed my frustration and ... expected answers and I expected a return call from Dr. Murray and the establishment of an appointment or meetings or I would pursue legal action, block him leaving the country or whatever. At that point I felt desperate."
Murray left him a voicemail later that morning, the day of Jackson's death saying he was unable to keep the appointment "unexpectedly." In it, he referenced his "overseas sabbatical." He never saw Murray again and found another cardiologist, who appeared pleased with the stents the doctor installed inside his heart.
"I was grateful that he took the time to call me," Russell said about Murray. "However, I thought the message was odd. He made a statement (saying) my heart was repaired. He had explained to me that it's damaged, it can never be repaired. I also thought it strange he said he was leaving on a sabbatical. I thought the word 'sabbatical' was strange. I've been aware of what he's doing."