Suit: Care home resident died with paper jammed in windpipe

Cheryl Yewdall spent most of her life at a Philadelphia care home for individuals with developmental disabilities. It was there, on Jan. 26, that the 50-year-old was discovered face down on the ground, in a pool of urine, suffocating on a big wad of paper that had been stuffed down her throat.

She died 5 days later.

No one in authority has mentioned how a 6- or 7-inch paper towel or disinfecting wipe wound up in the trachea of a girl with cerebral palsy and profound mental disabilities. The health worker’s office mentioned it couldn’t decide the way of Yewdall’s demise, and a police investigation has yielded no arrests.

But an legal professional for Yewdall’s mom, in a brand new wrongful demise lawsuit, casts suspicion on an unidentified workers member at Merakey Woodhaven — and means that Yewdall herself left a disturbing clue about what how she was handled on the place she referred to as home for 4 a long time.

“She was just so sweet and innocent and helpless, and she depended on them to care for her and love her and be safe,” Yewdall’s mom, Christine Civatte, mentioned in a cellphone interview. “I just thought they would protect her.”

In a written assertion to The Associated Press, Merakey mentioned it “denies any accountability” for Yewdall’s death, which it called “a serious and tragic incident.” The organization said it has cooperated with state and local investigations.

“She was a valued member of the Merakey neighborhood, and we had been honored to have had her in our look after greater than 40 years,” mentioned Merakey, a supplier of developmental, behavioral well being and schooling providers with practically 700 places nationwide.

Born three months untimely, Cheryl Yewdall went to dwell at Woodhaven as a toddler. She liked nursery rhymes, doo-wop music and particularly Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” — each time her mom put it on, Yewdall would smile, clap her palms and rock backwards and forwards in her wheelchair.

Christine Civatte mentioned she thought every thing was fantastic.

But in January 2021, a year earlier than her demise, Cheryl suffered a damaged leg that went undiagnosed, the lawsuit mentioned. Then, after an X-ray confirmed the fracture, workers failed to put an immobilizer on her leg as required, telling a visiting doctor weeks later they did not understand how, the lawsuit mentioned.

And in a separate incident, from September 2021, Yewdall was reported to have a black eye and swollen cheek, which Woodhaven attributed to a fall, the lawsuit mentioned.

Yewdall, who had restricted verbal expertise, usually repeated phrases and phrases she heard different individuals say, a situation referred to as echolalia. One day, her sister requested her to say, “Hi Daddy.”

Yewdall’s response, recorded by her sister on an iPhone, was chilling.

“Listen to me, a———. Settle down baby. I’m going to kill you if you don’t settle down,” mentioned Yewdall. “I’m going to kill you, a———.”

The clear implication, in keeping with James Pepper, the lawyer for Yewdall’s mom, was that she was merely repeating what she’d heard at Woodhaven.

“Cheryl’s recounting of what she heard previously, and the undisputed facts of what occurred to her during that yearlong period (before her death), match up,” mentioned Pepper, who included a transcript of Yewdall’s statements to her sister in the lawsuit.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health threatened to terminate Woodhaven’s license after Yewdall’s demise. In their overview, regulators additionally discovered the care home denied immediate emergency therapy to a different resident who fractured his hip, and didn’t safeguard two residents with pica, an consuming dysfunction in which somebody consumes issues that aren’t meals, in keeping with a state report.

The report confirmed that “Merakey had no effective policies in place to prevent its residents from engaging in pica behavior,” Civatte’s lawsuit mentioned.

Though different Woodhaven residents struggled with pica, Pepper mentioned, he does not imagine Yewdall inserted a big disinfectant wipe in her personal windpipe. She had a traditional gag reflex and no historical past of pica, in keeping with Woodhaven information reviewed by the Health Department.

“No one with a gag reflex within normal limits could have put a cleaning wipe … into their trachea,” Pepper mentioned.

The lawsuit, as an alternative, pins blame on somebody at Woodhaven.

“Cheryl Yewdall’s lack of any history of engaging in pica behavior indicates that a staff member at Merakey Woodhaven placed the cleaning wipe in Cheryl Yewdall’s trachea,” the lawsuit mentioned.

Philadelphia police didn’t reply to a number of requests for remark. The state legal professional normal’s office, which has jurisdiction on legal neglect at nursing properties, declined remark.

The state Health Department returned to Woodhaven on Sept. 6 and lifted the care home’s termination discover, concluding it had made “significant progress” in correcting issues.

Woodhaven despatched condolences to Civatte after her daughter’s demise, however provided no details about how and why it occurred, Civatte mentioned. Staff invited her to select up Cheryl’s belongings: six tubs of garments, toys, dolls.

Civatte mentioned she’s nonetheless in search of solutions.

“I need to know everything that happened. Every single moment,” Civatte mentioned. “I need to find out who found her. I need to know who did this.”

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