The Day – Colchester man who survived EEE and COVID-19 alleges abuse at rehab centers


Colchester — A neighborhood man who survived Eastern equine encephalitis and then COVID-19 has returned dwelling after greater than a 12 months in rehabilitation centers, the place he alleges he was uncared for, abused and compelled to aim suicide.

In August 2019, Richard Pawulski was a wholesome 42-year-outdated man and a profitable bodily therapist who had simply moved into his dream dwelling in Colchester along with his spouse, Malgorzata, and their teenage daughter, Amellia. He was doing yard work on a summer season day when he was unknowingly bitten by a mosquito carrying the lethal Eastern equine encephalitis virus, generally often called EEE.

Pawulski began feeling flu-like signs on Aug. 22 and was quickly taken to a hospital, the place he slipped right into a coma that lasted two months.

On Oct. 1, the thriller of what had made Pawulski sick was solved, however the prognosis was bleak. Pawulski had contracted the EEE virus, which had contaminated his mind. Doctors stated he would seemingly by no means get up. His household was making ready his funeral.

But miraculously, Pawulski did get up. His occupational therapist referred to as him “a phenomenal miracle.”

Slowly however certainly, he started to stroll and discuss once more. But he required months of fixed care. He was bedridden in hospitals and rehabilitation amenities for 16 months. When he may lastly communicate, he stated he felt like he had “gone through hell” and “wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”

Pawulski was considered one of 4 individuals to contract the EEE virus in 2019 — and he’s the one one who survived.

Just earlier than Christmas 2020, Pawulski lastly went dwelling to Colchester and was reunited along with his spouse and daughter.

Though his household was overjoyed to lastly have him dwelling, his homecoming wasn’t the joyous event they’d anticipated. 

Pawulski was purported to be launched from Riverside Health and Rehabilitation Center in East Hartford in November, simply in time for Thanksgiving, however the course of was halted by pink tape with insurance coverage approvals for dwelling well being care. His launch was pushed again, and Richard was devastated. He’d already spent a complete 12 months away from his household, remoted for months as a result of COVID-19 pandemic — additionally battling and beating the coronavirus final spring — and he was able to go dwelling.

He wished his life again.

As Pawulski waited for insurance coverage approvals to clear in mid-November and early December, the chances of him coming dwelling earlier than Christmas turned slimmer, stealing the glimmer of hope that Pawulski had left.

Then, one evening, Pawulski stated he discovered himself denied probably the most fundamental human decency — the workers charged with caring for him at Riverside allegedly refused to vary his diaper. He requested repeatedly to be modified, to not have to sit down uncomfortably in a dirty diaper in order that he may fall asleep. The workers, he stated, mocked him for his weight and then ignored his pleas for assist. They had taken away his name button, so he could not name for help, and they ordered him again to his room when he wheeled into the corridor for assist. From his room, he may hear them laughing.

And in that second, Pawulski misplaced all hope. He stated he reached into his closet and took out a wire coat hanger. He untwisted the hanger and straightened it out. He wrapped it round his neck and tried to finish his life.

Pawulski was saved by a workers member who lastly acknowledged his earlier cries for assist and he was then transferred to Hartford Hospital. Malgorzata acquired a name that just about broke her coronary heart — she was instructed that her husband, so near coming dwelling, had tried suicide.

Sitting in her dwelling in December holding her husband’s hand, her eyes welled with tears as her husband recalled the second he secured the hanger round his neck.

“He just lost all hope,” she stated.

When Malgorzata arrived at Hartford Hospital, she determined that she could be taking him dwelling. He wouldn’t be going again to Riverside.

“Why would we send him back to a place that made him want to die?” she stated.

Pawulski was at Riverside From May to December 2020. During that point, he stated he was repeatedly uncared for, left to sit down in dirty diapers for hours and hours, denied entry to telephones to speak to his household — even throughout the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when guests weren’t allowed. He stated he was mocked by workers members who made enjoyable of him for his weight and instructed him that his spouse was going to go away him due to how he regarded.

Pawulski stated that his name button, his solely technique to sign that he wanted assist whereas confined to a wheelchair he can barely get into on his personal, was taken away from him. His household complained that he wanted to have a technique to name for assist, nevertheless it was by no means given again, they stated.

Toward the top of his keep, Pawulski stated male worker who labored the night shift started to hit him, hanging him on his arms and physique. His household nonetheless has photographs on their telephone of huge yellow bruises on his physique.

The administrator at Riverside didn’t reply to repeated requests from The Day about Pawulski’s allegations of abuse and neglect.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health continues to be processing a public information request filed by The Day requesting data on any cases of abuse of neglect reported at Riverside, or at Salmon Brook Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Glastonbury, the place Pawulski was earlier than shifting to Riverside.

At Salmon Brook, Pawulski stated he was by no means bodily abused, however was uncared for simply as a lot. The operator at Salmon Brook stated she had no touch upon his allegations of neglect or abuse.

Throughout 2020, Pawulski’s spouse and daughter stated they have been so determined that they referred to as police a number of occasions to ask for assist and complain of neglect at each centers. Richard additionally referred to as police from the rehab centers, they stated.

Lt. Joshua Litwin of the East Hartford Police Department stated the division had a file of 1 telephone name made about Pawulski’s care at Riverside. Litwin stated that Pawulski’s daughter referred to as East Hartford police within the fall of 2020 complaining that she couldn’t attain her father. The dispatcher instructed her that, regrettably, it wasn’t a police subject as a result of there was no prison criticism and steered that she contact the power’s administration.

Litwin stated that in his 20 years with the police division he has by no means heard of any prison complaints involving Riverside.

The Glastonbury Police Department Chief Marshall Porter stated his division had no information of any telephone calls alleging abuse or neglect at Salmon Brook.

Now that Richard is dwelling, his spouse and daughter say they’re going through an entire new nightmare.

The household has been, for over a month, making an attempt desperately to get approval from the state to obtain dwelling take care of Richard, who requires across the clock care to maneuver, eat and use the lavatory. His spouse stated that they have been instructed that approvals are delayed as a result of he left his rehabilitation program early. He was introduced dwelling early, she stated, as a result of he was so mistreated that he wished to die.

His spouse has taken intensive break day from her job at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown. Her coworkers have generously donated their paid break day to her so she will be able to take care of her husband.

But they’re operating out of time, and they’re annoyed. They stated that for them, it’s virtually a full time job to attempt to work with social staff and state officers to get approval for in-dwelling care and SNAP advantages to assist with their bills now that they’ve solely one revenue. Amellia, a 10th grader at Bacon Academy School, usually has to go away her digital lessons early, or skip them altogether, to area telephone calls and assist her dad when he wants one thing.

They name social staff day after day however have gotten no solutions, no reduction.

“My family has never asked for help for anything,” Malgorzata stated via tears in December. “We have always worked hard and taken care of ourselves, and now when we need help, no one is there for us.”

t.hartz@theday.com



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