Thursday, May 17, 2007
Danielle Gruskowski, a 32-year old woman with Rett Syndrome, died on November 5, 2002 when staff at her Edison, NJ group home failed to call "911" in response to a high fever she had developed the previous evening. By the time they drove her to a doctor’s office the following morning, she could not be revived and was pronounced dead two hours later at a local hospital. Danielle also experienced numerous incidents of abuse and neglect in her group home, culminating in an episode in which it is alleged that hot tea was thrown into her face, resulting in serious burns.
Danielle spent the first 28 years of her life at home, where she was loved and well cared for by her family. She had no major health problems nor serious illnesses. Danielle was included in all family functions and she had a very active social life. She was on a softball team, a bowling league, and went to the prom. Danielle loved flying on planes especially when she knew she was going to Disney World to see Mickey Mouse. Danielle was a flower girl in her aunt's wedding. She was a founder of the Carteret Specials, a group formed 30 years ago in Carteret to enrich the lives of special needs children, a group that still meets today.
At the age of 28 Danielle went to live at Spectrum for Living in nearby Edison, in the hope that the greater independence of adult living would benefit her in positive ways. In the group home, incidents of abuse and neglect began to mount culminating, eventually, with her death.
Danielle was both non-verbal and non-ambulatory. Her mother, Diane Gruskowski, visited her almost every day and spent hours training staff members in the specifics of her care. Still, in Diane's absence, it was not uncommon for Danielle to miss meals or not be repositioned in her chair. She lost 25 pounds in the group home.
During the last 12 hours of her life, Danielle exhibited many sign of distress, none of which were perceived by the staff as life-threatening.
Danielle's face was badly burned after a staff member allegedly threw hot tea at her.
At 8pm on November 4, 2002, Danielle had difficulty swallowing her liquid medication.
At midnight, Danielle was crying and had difficulty breathing. Further documentation stated that she kept rubbing her nose with the back of her hand, which was very unusual for her. (She may have been trying to tell someone that she could not breathe)
At 4:00am, again, Danielle was crying and had difficulty breathing. Her clothes were wet from sweat and had to be changed twice during the night, which the caregiver attributed to the house being warm.
At 7:00am, Danielle had a reported temperature of 105 degrees.
A statement from one of the staff indicated that the last time that she saw Danielle “she was pale and panic breathing”
Danielle died at 10:18am on November 5, 2002. 911 was never called.
Instead she was taken in the group home van to the doctor’s office in New Brunswick where she arrived not breathing. CPR was administered at the doctor’s office but by that time it was too late.