By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
"The nurse would walk over to me thinking it was Chad or someone who wanted to talk to me," says Shani. "And the person on the phone would start asking questions about Grant, and the nurse would be like, 'Who is this again?' And they didn't even want to talk to me."
Chad says he was once in the nursery when a woman he didn't know came in asking about Grant. The nurse told her the baby's father was right over there and pointed to Chad.
"The woman was like, 'Okay,' and you could tell she was not comfortable," says Chad. "She walked over and she said, 'I'm from New Screen Concepts. How's Grant doing?' And I said, 'Fine,' and she turned around and left."
Shani now wonders if New Screen Concepts secretly hoped something bad would happen to Grant that they would be able to capture on film, although she says that at the time she had no reason to believe that. The production company even brought the family peanut brittle for Christmas.
"I really felt obligated to let them film Grant; I was really intimidated," says Shani, who admits it's hard for her to confront people. "They were always really nice, but I was really kind of embarrassed. You could tell some of the nurses felt kind of taken aback by it."
Chad and Shani say they also felt like they should keep cooperating so they could get the promised footage that had been taken on the night of Nathan's death. The couple say they often asked producer Horn about the tapes, and that he told them they were in New York being copied and that the process was being slowed down because of the holidays.
But Chad and Shani say their suspicions grew shortly after Christmas when they discovered a flyer in Grant's chart. The flyer said that if there were any changes in Grant's condition, New Screen Concepts should be contacted. There was also a phone number where the film crew could be reached (Memorial Hermann provided New Screen Concepts with office space inside the hospital).
"We found the flyer; we ripped it out," says Shani. "Somewhere along the way New Screen Concepts found out the flyer was gone, and they came back and put another one in. They're slick."
Shani says she began to feel stupid about what was happening. She says she's the type to take responsibility for her actions, not cry exploitation. Her mother died of lung cancer from smoking, she adds, but she doesn't think her mother had the right to sue a tobacco company.
"I thought, 'I've gotten myself into this, I shouldn't have done it, so now I'm going to have to do what they want to get the tapes,' " she says. "I felt guilty. I thought, 'What have I gotten my little boy into?' "
Chad and Shani say they were so desperate for the tapes they even went so far as to agree to stage a fake going-home celebration for Grant two weeks before he was released from the hospital, because New Screen Concepts said they needed it for the show and were on deadline.
"It was then that they started talking about the decision that we made about turning off [Nathan's] ventilator," says Shani. "We were like, 'Why are you asking us about the decision? This show is about Dr. Kincade, this isn't about our decision to turn off a ventilator.' And we were like, 'What is this story really about?' "
Shani says that New Screen co-founder Chuck Bangert showed up at the staged event. He told Shani and Chad that he didn't think the couple should watch the footage of Nathan's death, then asked them if they knew they were crying in the film. When the couple insisted they wanted the tapes anyway, Bangert told them he wanted to arrange for the couple to watch the tapes at the hospital with a chaplain, a social worker and producers from New Screen.
"He said he'd watch it with us and cry with us," says Chad, his voice brimming with disgust.
Shani says there was no way she wanted to watch the tapes with other people looking at them. It would have been like being raped, she says. When they turned down the offer, Bangert told them he would try to get ABC to allow New Screen to give the Walters the tapes. Chad and Shani said they were under the assumption that New Screen had been trying to get the tapes all along.
Shortly before Grant's release on January 25, Chad and Shani say, Rosa Montes, a manager of patient relations at Memorial Hermann, came by to talk to them. When the Walters explained their situation, she expressed sympathy but didn't offer any help.
"She was like, 'Well, I'm really sad for you guys, but if they don't give it to you, you should at least tape it the night it airs so you have a copy,' " says Chad. "I was shocked."
Once at home, Chad and Shani realized they were never going to get the tapes. Chad contacted Stephen Sheppard, New Screen's attorney in New York City. Sheppard suggested nothing new, just reiterated New Screen's original offer to have the couple watch some of the footage at the hospital with a social worker and a chaplain. Not only did Shani and Chad not want to do that, they told Sheppard they were also unable to do it because they were feeding Grant through a tube every three hours, 24 hours a day.