The Investigators

Jun 23, 2014 9:57 AM by Bret Buganski

N4T Investigators: UPDATE: Inmate Michael Levy's medical care

TUCSON- This is a follow up to a News 4 Tucson Investigation we first brought to you last month. An inmate at the Arizona State Prison says the warning signs were there, but nobody took him seriously. Michael Levy said he complained for months, when finally this January he suffered a stroke caused by an aneurysm.

News 4 Tucson Investigators uncovered hundreds of pages of Levy's prison medical files. They show the 26 year old inmate complained of head pain, and irregular heart beats, only to be given over the counter medication, sometimes ignored completely, then sent back to his cell. Levy is now in a wheelchair tells us he feels like he's even more vulnerable.

"I guess I'm just more worried about me having another episode if I'm sick," said Levy.

Photos showed how the 26 year old inmate's appearance changed dramatically. His stroke left him in a coma for weeks and doctors had to perform emergency surgery to remove the growth in his head.

Levy told News 4 Investigators his physical therapy continues but he's still moving around in a wheelchair. He performs physical therapy twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays for about an hour each day. Although initially, his doctors recommended Levy undergo aggressive physical therapy, but that's when D.O.C's health care provider Corizon stepped in.

"It's a battle for me and it's a battle for him," said Risa Levy, the inmate's mother.

Dated March 3, 2014, News 4 Tucson Investigators found out Corizon denied his rehab with St. Joseph Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix due to cost of rehab. Instead, Corizon sent Levy to Select Specialty. As noted in these documents, Levy's mother was assured her son would get therapy at Select Specialty. But Levy told us he never received any physical therapy at that venue. After nearly two weeks at Select Specialty, Levy was transferred once again, back to prison.

"Michael is sick, Michael is sick because he's an inmate and not getting the care that he needs, put yourself in my position as a parent," said Risa Levy.

Nine weeks had gone by since he last completed physical therapy at St. Joseph and because of that Levy feels like he was set up for failure.

"I would like to be a lot more stronger and better, it's just right with me having these pains in my head and everything, I would say it's about a 50/50 chance," said Levy.

Levy said he continues to have head pains on a daily basis.

"I don't want to hear that seizure medicines are getting missed," said Risa Levy.

News 4 Tucson Investigators obtained emails exchanged between Levy's mother and the Arizona Department of Corrections, where D.O.C. tells Levy's mother the staff did indeed miss a cycle of Levy's recommended daily medication and at least one day of physical therapy. Our questions and interview requests with D.O.C. went unanswered. In the past, News 4 Tucson Investigators were denied interviews with D.O.C. and the prison's health care provider Corizon, citing HIPAA laws.

"My legs, I can kind of move it, but it wants to kind of kick out to the left so that's just when I'm walking," said Levy.

Levy told us he's still a long ways away of not only having full balance, but his left hand, the side where he had his stroke, is still weak.

"It still has to be worked on constantly, I mean my arm, my arm itself, I can lift up and bring it down," Levy added.

"I will be their pain every day, every week, every month, until Michael gets out," said Risa Levy.

Levy is scheduled to have surgery on his head as early as July.

"The kid is walking around with an infected valve that needs to be replaced," said Risa Levy.

Medical files also show Levy, when getting a teeth cleaning in April 2013 checked "heart murmur" as a pre-existing medical condition. After Levy's stroke, as noted in the medical files, doctors said Levy will need heart surgery to remove a bacterial infection, what doctors called endocarditis. But when that surgery will take place is unknown.

"I don't know if he can last for 15 months, I have no idea," said Risa Levy. " I don't care if it's your husband, your son, a brother, a sister, that's the worst feeling knowing that I'm on the outside looking in and I can't protect him."

Levy is far from the only inmate to allege negligence and improper health care access at the Arizona State Prisons. This month, the U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously ruled the ACLU and the Prison Law Office can move forward with a lawsuit against D.O.C. on behalf of 33,000 prisoners. The trial could begin this fall.

If you have a tip for the News 4 Tucson Investigators, please email us at or call 520 955-4444.


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