Double amputee alleges that surgery at State hospital left him partially paralyzed

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By Robert A. Emmanuel

A distraught man is asking for more to be done to help him return to a life of normalcy after a surgery reportedly left him partially paralyzed on the left side of his face.

During an exclusive interview with OBSERVER media on Tuesday, Lenroy “Lumma” Hazelwood – whose legs had been amputated at the knees – chronicled his tribulations during the past few months.

According to Hazelwood, his problems began in September 2018 when he had an issue in the region of his left ear.

“Since around September/October, I have been going to doctors and the clinic for an ear infection and they have been giving me antibiotics and painkillers. I took it for about two or three weeks and the pain kept coming back,” he said.

Hazelwood added that he went to the Mount St John’s Medical Center (MSJMC) in December “about three times for the same problem and they gave me the same antibiotics.”

Days later, he returned to MSJMC for a diagnosis of the issue which, according to an obtained medical document dated 25 April 2019, was ‘Malignant Otitis Externa’ (an invasive bacterial infection that involves the external auditory canal and skull base).

 “His persistent ear infections were found to be originating in the anteromedial aspect of the external auditory canal. Further investigations revealed Osteomyelitis of the left mandibular head and temporomandibular joint with no mastoid involved and he was transferred to the Faciomaxillary Service,” the document stated.

Hazelwood further added that after he underwent surgery to address the ear infection, he was sent to a private doctor who he named as Dr. Thomas.

After three visits to the doctor, Hazelwood was then referred back to the hospital for another surgery.

Hazelwood, for the next few weeks, had to return to the hospital, including one trip via ambulance.

A visibly teary-eyed and dejected Hazelwood explained that his family and friends have been placed under increased financial burden during the time he spent in the hospital.

“I have been asking for help and I can’t get no help. Now, I am paralyzed on one side and I can’t swallow, I can’t eat certain things, I can only drink and it cost me, my friends and my family a lot to maintain my fitness. I can’t help,” Hazelwood said in tears.

He added that the hospital informed him that two specialists were travelling to Antigua from Trinidad to assist him; but, according to him, they never arrived.

Currently, Hazelwood said, he has to frequently discharge saliva from his mouth and sometimes finds himself vomiting blood and saliva during the night.

Hazelwood is a double leg amputee and construction worker who has been recognized by Health Minister Molwyn Joseph for perseverance through hardship.

In January 2016, Hazelwood was given a pair of prosthetic legs by the Ministry of Health.

At the time, Minister Joseph said of Hazelwood – who was featured on local media for his versatility while doing construction work, without legs, on the Ministry of Health’s headquarters building on lower High and Long streets – “It is remarkable. Sometimes we underestimate and discredit the ability and capacity of the physically handicapped to make their contribution to the development of the country.

“This young man is quite brave. I understand that, even without his lower limbs, he is able to climb the scaffolds to the roof of the building.

“He didn’t ask for this. This is an initiative that the Ministry has undertaken. He is quite satisfied. He has not complained about his handicap. But given his enthusiasm and the fact that he is really willing to work hard for a living, I think that we owe it to him to support him in whatever way possible.”

Meanwhile, president of the Antigua and Barbuda Association for Persons with Disabilities, Bernard Warner, said he wanted the Minister of Health to do more to help Hazelwood.

“A couple of weeks ago, myself and Shirley Austin met with Honorable Molwyn Joseph on ‘Lumma’ Hazelwood’s behalf, because we also felt frustrated as we figured someone like Hazelwood, who Antiguans praised and raised up for his outstanding work in construction as a double amputee and has been to Cabinet; been on many programmes in reference to his work.

“We saw that little has been done for him from the Minister’s point of view. We thought that someone who the Minister said he loved and cared for is in hospital for weeks with no attention,” Warner said.

“We are upset that the hospital has been dragging its feet on him and even to say that the Ministry of Health should do more and to step up and seek serious support for Hazelwood.”

Warner said when he met with Cabinet for a service to assist tourists with physical disabilities in February 2019, he raised the issue of Hazelwood’s condition with the ministers.

“I personally met with Cabinet when I presented my business plan and I pleaded to Cabinet on Hazelwood’s behalf and the Minister of Health promised to look into his situation and, today, we are far from the truth,” he said.

Warner said he laid the blame at the feet of the office of the Minister of Health and MSJMC.

“The Minister and his medical fraternity has to be held accountable for all the damages done to this gentleman and he should get redress in terms of medical attention or compensation for damages; because they are the ones who caused the damages through the repeated surgeries before they make referral where they could not handle,” Warner said, calling the actions of the hospital “medical malpractice”.

When asked if they considered hiring the services of a lawyer, Warner said they considered it but, out of respect for the minister, they are allowing the situation to play out.

“We have considered that, however … we give due respect to the minister for the fact he knew Hazelwood and asked that he would seek that support before we consider any further move for compensation,” Warner said.

Efforts to reach the Minister of Health were unsuccessful as Joseph was, up to press time, attending a health conference overseas.

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