76 developmentally disabled clients of the state died in cases involving abuse or neglect over seven years
Off they would go to Dougie’s favorite spot in the universe a Red Lobster restaurant where he would be told to order anything he wanted. At the end of the laughter filled meal, waitresses would sing a spirited round of “Happy Birthday to You” and deliver slices of cake maybe extra large slices for the twins’ 50th birthday.
Then, well after dark, they would return to the car to drive Dougie back to Stratford, turning the car onto the winding access road to the Ella Grasso Center, where he lived with about 45 other men and women with developmental disabilities.
That’s how Rose Landino imagines the day. Instead, she spent most of her birthday in her compact New Haven home, somber and teary against an incongruous background of birthday decorations on the wall and dangling from the ceilings.
“Dougie’s death it is so senseless,” she says, wiping a tear as she sits on a couch a few feet from a small memorial she has built for her brother.
“It hurts. You don’t know how much it hurts,” she says. “The doctors that did this to him, how do you sleep at night, knowing that us a loving family to Dougie that we have to hurt for the rest of our lives?”
A Life Changing Loss
Rose and Douglas were born just before the advent of ultrasound in obstetrics, and their fetal position allowed doctors to hear only one heartbeat, so the multiple pregnancy was a surprise. Douglas was born first, a difficult breech delivery in which he came out blue, with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Rose was born two minutes later, without complications.
Starved for oxygen, Douglas’s brain suffered a serious developmental injury. As he grew, his mental capacity stopped at that of about a 6 year old’s.
But he had an endearing innocence and a longing for interaction. He wou ugg bailey button ld stand at the sidewalk and ask passersby the spelling of their names, then write them down on his ever present pad of paper.
“And if he didn’t see you, say, for a year and you showed up, he would have still remembered you and would still know how to write your name and your last name,” Landino said. “He was a very smart boy. He may have been mentally retarded, but let me tell you: this kid was so smart. So smart.”
When he wasn’t writing names on his pad of ugg bailey button paper, he’d write on shopping bags his mother would save. He wrote on his sisters’ album covers, and on the labels in the center of records.
“We had a pencil sharpener in our kitchen growing up for Dougie,” Landino said.
Their mother, also named Rose, built her life around caring for her son, dressing him and feeding him every day for decades.
And then came Oct. 3, 1994.
A few weeks shy of Douglas’s 32nd birthday, Rose Davis suffered a heart attack and died. She was 56. Landino said her father wasn’t equipped to care for Douglas, and his three sisters were all married and working. She said there was no viable option other than placing him at the Ella Grasso Center.
Douglas built a life there, listening to his bags full of cassette tapes, keeping active and losing weight on a healthier diet than he received at home, where his mother would spoil him with f ugg bailey button ood.
He did well for years; there was even talk of having him move to a supervised apartment in the community with other developmentally disabled men. But it never happened, and after September 2003, it never would.
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Douglas had a history of becoming agitated when he didn’t get his way, and doctors controlled the behavior with Haldol, a drug that decreases abnormal excitement in the brain and that is often prescribed to children with aggressive behavior.
But in September 2003, Douglas’ psychiatrist switched the prescription to Seroquel, a newer anti psychotic that usually had a lower risk of serious side effects.
Douglas’ medical records show that almost immediately after Douglas’ medication was changed, he experienced strange and dangerous changes in behavior. Within days of the switch, records show, Douglas was unsteady on his feet, and staff at the Ella Grasso Center began chronicling episodes of “dropping” when Douglas would simply slump over or collapse to the floor. Twice, he was injured seriously enough in falls that he was taken to the hospital, and once required stitches over his eye to close a wound.
“He dropped one day 60 times,” Landino said, recounting notes from Douglas’ medical records, which she obtained years after his death. Once, during dinner, his muscles gave out and he slumped face down into his food.