The Investigators

May 7, 2014 3:56 PM by Bret Buganski

N4T Investigators: Do prisoners deserve adequate health care?

FLORENCE- The warning signs were there, but he wasn't taken seriously.

That's what Michael Levy says, who is currently incarcerated at Arizona State Prison at Wilmot. After months of complaining about head pain, he suffered a stroke and nearly died on the way to the hospital. The stroke he suffered was caused by an aneurysm. As his long road to recovery is beginning, there's a road block, which is his insurance carrier.

"Michael did drugs and he's doing out his time, he's not a murderer, he's not a rapist," said Risa Levy, the mother of Michael Levy, who told us her 25-year-old son is not perfect.

"He's paying the consequence," she added.

Levy is currently serving a five year sentence for methamphetamine possession. In family photos obtained by News 4 Investigators, Levy appears healthy and in good condition. All of that changed in late 2013.

On October 6, 2013 at the Arizona State Prison in Florence, Levy stated in his medical forms that he'd been suffering from headaches, migraines and chest pains for 15 days. Prison doctors gave him over-the-counter medication, but Levy said nothing worked. Health staff documented this visit on Oct. 7, stating they gave him "Ibuprofen."

"That's not an inmate wanting attention that's an inmate asking for help," said Levy's mother. "He would go to bed and tell me that he would lay down in the fetal position like he would bring his knees up to his chest and just rock himself to sleep."

Then on October 20, 2013, he filled out another form complaining of the same thing. He requested to be taken to the hospital and an MRI. But on doctors notes, there's no record of Levy's request being granted or denied for an MRI. The next date shown is Oct. 26, 2013.

"Why would they just miss one whole paper when that's the important one," said Levy's mother who said her son never received an MRI. Levy would continue to fill out medical requests as documented on Oct. 25, 27, Dec. 2nd, and 17 nothing severe pain his head and irregular heartbeats. Doctors would continue to give him over the counter medication.

"When he realized he was getting no help, he gave up," said Risa Levy.

On Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, Levy's health took a turn for the worse. The 25-year-old collapsed wihle drinking water from a fountain.

Levy suffered a stroke caused by an aneurysm. He was rushed to a Phoenix hospital where he was in a coma. News 4 Investigators have pictures of Levy after he woke up. Nearly half of his head is missing after doctors removed the growth. He also lost his ability to walk and now moves around in a wheelchair. He started physical therapy shortly after which took place for two weeks. Doctors recommended the inmate do aggressive physical therapy, but Levy's health care provider Corizon stepped in.

"They're playing God," said his mother. "They just didn't do what they should've did."

On March 3, 2014, documents obtained by News 4 Investigators found out Corizon denied his rehab with St. Joseph Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix "due to the cost of rehab." Instead, Corizon sent Levy to Select Specialty.

As noted in the documents, Levy's mother was assured her son would get therapy at Select Specialty. He was discharged from St. Joseph's on March 5, 2014. But when we spoke to inmate Levy, he told us he received medication but never any physical therapy from Select Specialty.

"Watched TV and trying to get a sponge bath, shower, was in bed, I could barely move," said Levy, explaining to News 4 Investigators about what he did during his stay at Select Specialty.

On March 18, 2014, he was transferred once again, but this time back to prison where he currently resides at Wilmot.

News 4 Investigators made several attempts by phone and by email requesting an interview with the Arizona Department of Corrections. Our requests were denied citing HIPAA laws, although Michael Levy's family gave us his medical files.

Corizon emailed News 4 Investigators stating HIPAA laws, as well, for why they couldn't comment directly on Levy's case.

"If it's not Corizon it's the prison, there's only two people I can look at," said Levy's mother, as she tells us who she feels is at fault.

This family feels there was negligence.

When we spoke to inmate Levy on the phone, he told us his physical therapy in prison began on Monday April 21, 2014. Nine weeks had gone by since the last time he had completed physical therapy. Levy said he feels like he's back to square one.

"It's going to be a long process," he said. "I want to be able to walk, that's the end of the story."

The Levys believe the care provided is still not adequate and they're pleading with both Corizon and the Arizona D.O.C.

"Imagine one of your family members getting sick what if that medical provider denied you, your family your child someone the help that they needed," said Levy's mother.

There is a lawsuit pending on Michael Levy's behalf against insurance company Corizon. Proceedings are likely to happen after Levy's release from state prison in 2015.

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