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Inmate’s death leads to state investigation

Mother describes events that led to death of her son in Harnett County jail

Bienchis Esteva Feliz describes the series of circumstances that led to the death of her son Apolinar 'Hasen' Perdomo, who died after being stricken with Guillain-Barre Syndrome while in the Harnett County jail.
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Bienchis Esteva Feliz describes the series of circumstances that led to the death of her son Apolinar 'Hasen' Perdomo, who died after being stricken with Guillain-Barre Syndrome while in the Harnett County jail.

The state agency that oversees jail supervision regulations will send an investigator to Harnett County to look into the death of an inmate who came down with a paralyzing disorder while behind bars.

The News & Observer reported last week that Apolinar “Hasen” Perdomo, 27, died on April 21 after a series of events that medical records indicate began when he received a flu shot at a drug treatment facility in Raleigh several weeks earlier.

After he finished a five-day stay at the WakeBrook facility, a parole officer arrested him for violating the terms of his release from prison. Perdomo was placed in the Harnett jail to await placement at a state prison to serve a 90-day sentence.

Two weeks after he entered the jail, Perdomo began losing sensation in his hands and feet. Medical records provided to The N&O from his family showed he first reported the condition on March 31. The next day, the records showed he returned to medical staff in a wheelchair.

He was taken to a local hospital, but the records did not reflect a diagnosis for what was ailing him. It wasn’t until April 4 that a jail doctor suspected Perdomo had contracted Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare disorder that can be triggered by a flu shot.

By then, Perdomo was struggling to breathe and swallow. A doctor at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville performed a tracheotomy on Perdomo, and he was sent to Kindred Hospital, a long-term facility specializing in respiratory care.

It was there that Perdomo began bleeding at the tracheotomy site, which doctors at Kindred tried to stop. During that emergency surgery, records showed Perdomo needed to be resuscitated five times. He died early the next morning.

Perdomo’s family has hired Raleigh attorney Robert Zaytoun to look into Perdomo’s death.

Steven Lewis, the head of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Construction Section, said he read about the death in The N&O and decided to have an investigator check to see if Perdomo received proper supervision in the Harnett jail.

“We’ll probably go down and make sure the procedural things were followed like we always do,” he said.

Bienchis Esteva Feliz describes seeing her son paralyzed and handcuffed to a bed. Apolinar 'Hasen' Perdomo died after being stricken with Guillain-Barre Syndrome while in the Harnett County jail.

Jails are required under state law to report inmate deaths to the DHHS, but Perdomo was no longer in the jail or in Harnett’s custody at the time he died.

Lewis’ agency does not investigate medical care of inmates. But the state regulations under his purview require detention officers to properly check inmates to make sure they are not in distress and mandate that jails have a medical plan in place outlining the care inmates are supposed to receive.

The medical plan requires that inmates “be provided an opportunity each day to communicate their health complaints to a health professional or to an officer,” and that “qualified medical personnel” be available to evaluate medical needs. It also requires that jails keep a written record of inmates’ requests for medical care and the actions taken.

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