CW: Death & Neglect
Lisa Smith received the call most parents dread last year. Her 25-year-old son Conner was dead. Conner was autistic and lived in a group home in Arlington, Texas.
Seven months earlier, Karen and Teddy Robinson received the same heartbreaking call. 38-year-old Joshua was ill and would die four days later. According to Kay Ray-Smith, a former EMT, Joshua’s abdomen was severely distended, making it appear as if he was pregnant.
Joshua and Conner both lived in separate group homes in Arlington. The homes are overseen by ResCare, also known as EduCare. The organization oversees homes nationwide.
Joshua and Conner both died due to intestinal perforation. Intestinal perforation, defined as a loss of intestinal wall continuity, is a potentially fatal complication that can occur as a result of several disease processes. Trauma, instrumentation, inflammation, infection, malignancy, ischemia, and blockage are all common causes of intestinal perforation.
The families say they were unhappy with the care their sons received. Last March, Joshua became gravely ill. Records show that 911 was never called. Joshua had previously been seen in the emergency room for constipation and had lost 41 pounds in a year.
Conner had spent the weekend with his parents in September. His mother noticed that he was experiencing mild constipation but otherwise seemed fine. She received a text message saying Conner had a bowel movement the following Tuesday and thought he was feeling better.
Later that night, the staff called 911 because Conner was ill. Records show that Conner was having severe diarrhea. Conner was carried to the bathroom by a staff member who returned to check on him after 20 minutes.
Paramedics found him still in the bathroom. He was leaning up against a grab bar while still sitting on the toilet.
Paramedics attempted to give Conner CPR, but it was too late. He died on the bathroom floor. An autopsy found that an ischemic bowel caused his death.
According to Mayo Clinic, intestinal ischemia is a group of conditions that occur when blood flow to the intestines is reduced. Ischemia can be caused by a completely or partially blocked blood vessel, usually an artery, or by low blood pressure, which results in decreased blood flow overall. Intestinal ischemia can affect your small or large intestine (colon) or both.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time unusual deaths have occurred at group homes throughout Texas. According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, more than 350 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities died in adult care homes in Texas during the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
More than 60% were classified as unexpected or accidental. One of them was even ruled to be a homicide. However, due to privacy laws, no information regarding those deaths is available.
Shannon Hunt was found on the floor by her family at her group home in Pflugerville. She was emaciated and hadn’t been changed. Two other people were also in the house. A staff member returned to the house after Hunt’s family had been there for two hours. She told Hunt’s family she had gone grocery shopping.
The Hunt family moved Shannon into a long-term care facility. Her condition improved. Unfortunately, she died on October 18, 2019, after being admitted to the ICU.
On November 27, 2018, Mina Iskander left his group home unsupervised. Somehow, Iskander ended up in the creek nearby. 911 was never called.
Instead, staff took him to the emergency room. Iskander later collapsed in the emergency room of Arlington Memorial Hospital. He was then rushed to Harris Methodist in Fort Worth.
His parents, Nevin and Fawzy, rushed to the hospital, where they saw their son covered with bruises. Iskander also had fractured ribs and a broken sternum. The police investigation showed that no one stayed with him at Arlington Memorial Hospital even though he was blind and had an intellectual disability. Iskander died on December 10, 2018.
Disabled people deserve to live free from abuse and neglect. Mina, Shannon, Conner, and Joshua should be alive today. How many more disabled people will die before the Texas Health and Human Services Commission takes notice?
Eiserer, Tayna, and Jason Trahan. “They Were Hurt While Living in Group Homes and Later Died. What …” WFAA, ABC, 6 Dec. 2019, http://www.wfaa.com/article/news/local/investigates/disabledindangerminaiskanderandshannonhunt/287-381c8cbd-dd98-496a-b418-36b69814f0e6.
Eiserer, Tayna. “Families Demand Answers after Two Men with Autism Died in Arlington …” WFAA, ABC, 10 Nov. 2023, http://www.wfaa.com/article/news/local/investigates/arlington-texas-families-demand-answers-group-home-deaths-conner-smith-joshua-robinson-educare/287-3ad7820d-d149-42b0-b4c2-719f928f2db4.
“Intestinal Ischemia.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 Aug. 2022, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/intestinal-ischemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373946.
Pouli, Styliani, et al. ‘Gastrointestinal Perforation: Clinical and MDCT Clues for Identification of Aetiology’. Insights into Imaging, vol. 11, no. 1, Feb. 2020, p. 31, https://doi.org10.1186/s13244-019-0823-6.