By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Finn regularly receives letters from inmates detailing their lack of care at the jail. He also regularly visits the jail, talks to employees who work there and hears a never-ending parade of families detail how their loved ones are languishing in the custody of the county.
"If you have a loved one at the jail and they're sick, you have to make it a full-time job to keep them alive."
So Scott's parents called the jail's infirmary, and the nurses gave him the standard treatment for asthmatics.
But the Scotts say that the jail's treatment plan did not relieve any of his symptoms. On August 2, he was rushed by ambulance to Parkland after he again had trouble breathing. He was stabilized and returned to the jail. On September 3, he once again struggled to breathe. He was taken to Parkland a second time, and his doctors prescribed him a new regimen of drugs to strengthen his lungs, but his parents say that when he returned to the jail, he was only given a standard inhaler, which is for someone with mild asthma. Their son's condition became much worse.
Parkland and UTMB officials acknowledge that they each have different lists of preferred drugs and that sometimes this discrepancy creates a conflict. When Parkland takes over managing medical care at the jail later this year, it should be a lot easier to coordinate care. But that's of little consolation to the Scotts.
They say that when their son returned to the jail after his first three trips to Parkland, he didn't improve. His inhaler was providing little relief. On the morning of September 14, 2004, he called his dad after a sleepless night and said he couldn't breathe. His heart was beating rapidly. That day he was sent to Parkland and doctors hooked him up to a respirator. When his parents arrived at the hospital, they were stunned to see their son connected to a series of tubes, his eyes closed and his once-lean body puffed up and bloated.
"The doctors couldn't guarantee us he was going to live," says Donald Scott, from his home in Arlington.
Scott's parents provided the Observer with Parkland records that show that he spent 10 days at the hospital, September 14 to 24. The records also show that he made six other visits to Parkland from August to November of 2004. For nearly a week, Scott was on life support. They also had photographs of their son attached to a respirator.
"The doctor told us the bill he accumulated in intensive care was a lot more expensive to the county than the medication he should have been getting," Donald Scott says.
And yet, he says that when his son returned to the jail, he still was not receiving his prescribed medication. Michael Scott would tell his dad during their regular phone calls that he still was having trouble breathing. Finally, he went back to Parkland in a scheduled outpatient appointment and a pulmonologist took it upon herself to make sure that Scott received the exact round of drugs that he needed. The 21-year-old, who would later plead guilty to aggravated robbery charges, never had any problems receiving his medication during the rest of his stay at Dallas County.
Still, Shirley Scott says that after her son went on life support, his speech was slurred for months. He had trouble walking for weeks and doctors say that he could be at risk for memory loss. His parents say that even today, nearly a year after he fell sick, he seems to talk more slowly.
Jerry Wayne Mooney may also never be the same after his three years at the jail that seemed to bring out the worst in the guards and medical staff. (See "We Hate Your Guts," July 28, 2005). After a shootout with Irving police, Mooney spent a month at Parkland, recovering from nearly a dozen bullet wounds. The gunshots left Mooney's abdominal muscles shredded, allowing his intestines to push into his belly and form a sac of wrinkled gray skin that flopped over his waist. Doctors also performed a colostomy and later in his discharge instructions stated that nurses needed to change his colostomy bags regularly.
When he was discharged into the jail, he was placed in solitary confinement, supposedly for his own protection since he had to carry his colostomy bag. But Mooney and his family say that he spent 62 days in solitary confinement, and nurses failed to change his bags for as long as 11 days.
"I was put in solitary confinement and left to rot," Mooney says. "They didn't change my bandages, and I got a staph infection for five weeks before they did anything about it."