Ohio mom Mary Pettit wants every parent to know they should always advocate for their child, especially when it comes to their health.

For the last seven months, Mary’s 24-year-old son, Justin, has been in the hospital due to what she believes was an egregious case of negligence. She told Dearly it all began this year:

“Justin is in a longterm hospital, but he was healthy most of his life.”

It all started when her son began suffering from a bowel issue in January. After undergoing an ileostomy — which is an operation to create an opening in the ileum (last part of the small intestine) — Mary said he was left with some major complications. Specifically, if his G-J (feeding) tube isn’t hooked up to suction, he unfortunately can begin vomiting stool.

It was for that reason that having suction was paramount to his medical care. Yet, Mary said many members of Justin’s health care team didn’t pay it any attention.

She also told Dearly that after being in the hospital for some time for a bladder infection, Justin’s grandmother and palliative care doctor convinced him he was a burden on their family and should move into a nursing home.

Mary Pettit

Despite Mary’s protests, Justin decided to do just that. The nursing home, however, turned out to be the start of every parent’s worst nightmare. Mary said it was noted on the front page of Justin’s paperwork that he needed to be hooked up to suction, but the nursing home still would not oblige.

Finally, Mary threatened to get a lawyer if the nursing staff continued to disregard hooking her son up to suction, but the damage had already been done.

After some time, Justin began complaining that he couldn’t breathe because he’d been throwing up. By the time they finally sent him to the emergency room, Mary said it took the nurses 30 minutes to even begin treating him — he was that dirty after being in the nursing home for so long.

Justin had also been suffering from pneumonia. Mary told Dearly:

“The nurse said, ‘I know he’ll be on the ventilator. I just know.’ Within a few days, they put him on ventilator. He’d thrown up and aspirated stool, and it left him with necrotizing pneumonia.”

She continued, saying:

“He almost died — the doctors told us to say our goodbyes.”

Thankfully, her son pulled through. But since then, he’s had to remain in the hospital. Mary said he used to be able to walk with a cane, but because the nursing home staff left him in a wheelchair for days on end, he no longer has function in his legs or feeling in his left leg:

“We’ve talked to a couple lawyers, but they’ve said it would be really hard to go after negligence of care and that it’s gonna take a lot of money to get all the records.”

When asked how Justin feels about what’s happened to him, Mary said:

“He gets depressed a lot and wants to give up.”

Tragically, Justin isn’t Mary’s first child to suffer after medical negligence. She told Dearly she lost her daughter, Danielle, two days after her 10th birthday:

“She was born with HypoPlastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). She had her 1st open heart surgery at 9 days old, and she had a massive stroke at 8 months old during her 2nd open heart surgery.”

Several months before she died, Danielle contracted strep throat and couldn’t swallow. Because she needed to take her heart medication, she was admitted into the hospital. Nurses, however, stopped administering her antibiotics. She then went into a coma, and eventually flat-lined. Although doctors saved her, Mary had been begging the whole time for them to perform a CT scan on her daughter.

Once the medical team finally did, they saw Danielle had a massive abscess of strep around her brain. Doctors then needed to drill into Danielle’s brain — an operation she survived, but she passed away three months later after turning 10 years old because, according to Mary, that’s what she wanted to do.

Mary Pettit

Mary told Dearly when her daughter passed away, she did hire a lawyer. But by the time they received Danielle’s medical records, things had “disappeared.”

In addition to the grief Mary has suffered over her children’s medical complications, she also has custody of her nine-year-old nephew who has cerebral palsy and suffers from a traumatic brain injury after a lifetime of being abused.

Needless to say, Mary and her family have been through the worst things imaginable.

Now, she says her son is still sometimes mistreated by staff at the hospital:

“It’s sad when people in prison get better health care than what people in the hospital get. We can’t even find a nursing home that will take him because none of them have an RN on staff. There is always an RN in prison — why isn’t that required in nursing homes? Had there been an RN at the home Justin was in, I think they probably would have taken him to the hospital sooner.”

Mary said if she could convey one message to parents out there, it would be that no matter what credentials a medical professional has, you should always check how they’re treating your child:

“Always speak for your child and be their advocate. [Doctors and nurses] always think they know your child better than you do, but they don’t.”

Now, she is trudging forward with the hopes her children and nephew will live long and healthy lives. She set up a GoFundMe page for her family’s medical bills, and, should anyone be in the giving spirit this holiday season, Mary’s family is in desperate need of a helping hand.

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