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Florida Jail Prisoner Paralyzed by MRSA Sues Prison Health Services

When Brett A. Fields entered Florida’s Lee County Jail to be booked on charges of criminal mischief, violating an injunction and probation violation, he was a healthy 26-year-old man. Within a month, according to a subsequent lawsuit, he was paralyzed due to grossly inadequate medical care by Prison Health Services (PHS).

Several days after being booked into the jail in July 2007, Fields requested medical attention for a wound on his left arm. A PHS nurse observed a red, swollen and pus-filled boil that she identified as a furuncle – a boil caused by staphylococci. She treated it with Bactrim, an antibiotic.

Two weeks later the boil had not healed. Fields requested medical care via an “Inmate Medical Request Form,” which was ignored by PHS and jail staff. In early August 2007, he began suffering from severe back pains, difficulty walking, numbness, weakness in his lower extremities and other symptoms. His pleas for medical treatment on August 6 were ignored, even though he stated he was having difficulty moving and had not urinated in days.

The next evening, Fields was finally examined by a PHS nurse. He explained his infection history and symptoms. The nurse arranged for him to see a physician’s assistant (PA) the following day.

By that time, Fields was unable to walk and was taken by wheelchair to see the PA. After hearing Fields’ medical history and symptoms, the PA conducted a cursory examination, ordered Tylenol and sent him back to his cell.

The next morning Fields had to drag himself across the floor to use the toilet. It was then that he noticed all the muscles in his anus had stopped working and his rectum, which had protruded through his anus, was completely visible outside his body. Jail guards pushed his rectum back in and removed him from the cell.

It was not until 72 hours later that PHS decided to have Fields examined by a doctor. When he arrived at a local hospital, Fields had almost complete paralysis of his lower extremities due to a MRSA-related abscess in his spine. Despite surgery and two years of physical therapy, he still suffers from partial paralysis in both legs.

On August 11, 2009, Fields, represented by Fort Lauderdale attorneys Dion J. Cassata and Greg M. Lauer, filed a civil rights action against PHS, PHS employees and Lee County Sheriff Michael J. Scott. PLN will report future developments in this case, which is still in the preliminary stages. See: Fields v. Scott, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Fla.), Case No. 2:09-cv-00529-JES-DNF.

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