I’d like to introduce you to Alex Spourdalakis, a 14-year-old boy who lives with his mother, Dorothy. Alex is not like most 14-year-old boys. He has severe autism with cognitive impairment, and he is non-verbal. Like many kids with autism, he experiences periodic disruptions to his sleep.
A few months ago, Alex’s sleep disturbances got serious enough for him to be become agitated and aggressive. This coincided with the onset of severe gastrointestinal symptoms, like constipation alternating with diarrhea. In the middle of February, his mother took him to Gottlieb hospital in Illinois, USA. He was in excruciating pain, which manifested as aggression.
For 13 days, Alex was kept in locked restraints, only being released to use the bathroom. Bear in mind that this kid was suffering from constipation, diarrhea and vomiting. He tried to communicate when he was getting sick by screaming, but staff frequently didn’t release him in time and he would have to lie in his own vomit for several minutes at a time. He would be allowed to use the bathroom, and then he would be wiped down and returned to the restraints.
During this time, Alex was given a cocktail of drugs that were not helping, and repeated pleas by his mother for his allergies to be considered fell on deaf ears, even as his skin became raw from allergy-induced dermatitis. He was not formally admitted to the hospital, nor was a proper treatment plan devised for him.
Are you horrified yet? Brace yourself, because the story continues.
After 13 days, Alex was transferred to Loyola Medical Centre. The following day, a gastrointestinal consult was ordered. The gastroenterologist did not show up for another four days, and when he did, he asked a few questions about Alex’s medical history but did not bother to physically examine him despite the obvious pain he was in.
18 days after Alex was first taken to hospital, a doctor finally acknowledged that he was in pain and scheduled appropriate medical procedures.
Let’s pause for a moment to think about that. 18 days.
Most people would have been undergone the appropriate testing and treatment within 24 hours. In Alex’s case, it took 18 days of pain, agitation, lying in pools of vomit, and warrior-like advocacy on the part of his mother, just for the procedures to be scheduled.
While all of this was going on, Alex was still in restraints. He was still having to be released to use the bathroom, and he was still lying in piles of vomit while he waited.
Alex has now been in hospital for over a month. He has still not received the medical procedures he so desperately needs, and a proper treatment plan is still not in place for him. His family have been begging for X-rays, CT scans, tests, anything – but no-one is listening. No-one seems to care.
Although the restraints have been removed, he is now under the watchful eye of a permanent security guard who snaps at him and talks down to him every time he tries to move. The phone has been removed from the room, so Alex’s mother has to leave him at the mercy of the security guard when she has to make a call. The call button – that essential link between patient and nurse – has been taken away.
Alex is still screaming with pain. He is still not sleeping, and he is still in a state of extreme distress. He has not been seen by one person who specializes in the treatment of kids with autism, and absolutely no accommodations are being made for his disabilities. Truth be told, absolutely no accommodations are being made for the fact that he is a human being.
He is still not being medically treated, and he is still being treated with utter disregard by hospital staff. They are not being permitted to leave – Alex’s mother has been threatened with calls to Child Protective Services.
Alex and his mother are in a horrible version of hell. And no-one, it would appear, wants to listen.
To help Alex and his mother, please read this letter that was written to CNN, who so far have declined to cover this horrific story. And please, please, please sign this petition to help Alex get the medical care that he needs.
For periodic updates on Alex’s story, please visit Age of Autism.
The picture of Alex is reproduced with the permission of Age of Autism.
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle of Toronto, Canada. Kirsten can also be found on her blog, Running for Autism, or on Twitter @Running4autism. You can also connect with her on Facebook.