Hospital Locks Down Autistic Boy for 19 Days of Agony

March 8, 2013

8 Mar (GAIA HEALTH)‘The use of antipsychotic, antiepileptic, and mood stabilizing medication may cause one or more side effects that will most likely require additional care management.’ So said the document Alex’s parents were told to sign—and it wasn’t on the hospital’s letterhead! They’ve strapped him down naked for 19 days & want to coerce his parents into this agreement.                                                                                                                                                                                     by Lisa Goes 

“I need to tell you Alex’s story.” Dorothy Spourdalakis, Alex’s mom spoke professionally with a deliberateness I was not expecting—considering she has been by Alex’s bedside awaiting proper medical care for his gastrointestinal symptoms, for 19 days.   

19 days. 456 hours. 27,360 minutes. 1,641,600 seconds. 

This is Alex.

The irony of this week marking The National Patient Safety Foundation’s “Patient Safety Awareness Week” is not lost on Dorothy. According to her, at 14 years of age, Alex has a diagnosis of severe autism and cognitive impairment. He is non-verbal. In October of 2012, Alex began to suffer neurological events that prevented a healthy sleep cycle. He was awake for many hours at a time. Agitation and aggression ensued as a result of sleep deprivation. During this time, symptoms and behaviors that were indicative of severe gastrointestinal distress developed as well.  A cycle of constipation, diarrhea and formed bowel movements surfaced and became a chronic problem. On February 16th at 5:00 am, with the assistance of police and paramedics, Dorothy took her inconsolable and highly-distressed non-verbal child to Gottlieb Hospital in Melrose Park, Illinois.

Because of Alex’s physical aggression, he was placed in locked restraints. At that time, Dorothy did not know the ER would be their home for the next several days, as Alex lay naked, in locked restraints, suffering bouts of violent vomiting, severe constipation and diarrhea. Neither she nor Alex bathed for the next 13 days while hospital staff and administrators attempted to devise a plan to care for Alex.

 “He was given Colace for his constipation and sometimes it would take security staff and nurses more than 15 minutes to arrive to help unshackle him so he could use the bathroom,” Dorothy explained. “Alex would scream as best he could when he knew he was going to have a vomiting episode, but security took several minutes to respond so Alex would lay in his own vomit, waiting to be released by a representative of security. He would be wiped down and returned to the same restraints.”

 Autism Is Medical (AIM), a support group that helps parents identify the underlying medical issues associated with the label of autism, was contacted on Sunday, February 24th.  They were enrolled to help the staff at Gottlieb understand Alex’s complex medical profile. According to one of the AIM representatives, 

  “Clearly, what they are doing isn’t working.” The AIM advocates, (all mothers to children fully recovered from iatrogenic autism), went on to say,  “Currently, this child is being treated with Lorazepam, Oxezepam, Benzatropine, Zyprexa and Ativan.  These drugs do nothing to address the intense gastrointestinal issues he is experiencing, nor do they alleviate his pain.”  

Dorothy explained that Alex remains in a highly-agitated state. He was also prescribed Depakote, to which he had an adverse reaction (elevated lipase). In addition to these issues, Alex’s mom explained he has many allergies. Both physicians at Gottlieb and Loyola told her that IgG and IgE food sensitivies were invalid. Dorothy was told by the attending physician to give her son milk at Loyola, not in the ER. When a possible reaction occurred she was told the bed caused his contact dermatitis.

Alex was not assigned to a room at Gottleib and was never formally admitted as a patient. He remained in an ER bay during his entire stay at Gottlieb. He was transferred to Loyola University Medical Center on February 28th at 3:00 p.m. after 13 days in the hopes that they could better serve his needs. It was determined that he needed the care of a pediatric gastroenterologist, neurologist and anesthesiologist, and Loyola could provide those services. On Friday, March 1st, a GI (gastrointestinal) consult was ordered. 

Alex and Dorothy were not visited by a gastroenterologist until March 5th, four days after their admission.  The physician took an oral medical history on Alex and expressed that he wasn’t sure why they were doing this procedure, and that Alex would be pushed back for some reason having to do with the pediatric anesthesiologist’s “complicated” schedule, according to Dorothy. In the 15 minutes the gastroenterologist spent in the room with Dorothy and her son, an event that was 17 days in the making, he did not see the need to perform a physical exam on Alex

For more on this article please see Gaia Health.

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