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updated: 12/5/2012 10:23 AM

Family sues after Arlington Hts. woman infested by maggots at nursing home

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The family of an Arlington Heights woman is suing her former nursing home after doctors found and removed 57 maggots from her ear earlier this fall, lawyers said Tuesday.

Catherine McCann, who is 90 and suffers from severe Alzheimer's, lived at Lutheran Home for the Aged, 800 W. Oakton St., for two years before the incident, which since has caused her family to relocate her to a different facility.

According to the lawsuit filed in Cook County circuit court, after a recent ear surgery McCann was required to receive medical drops in her ear several times a day. However, the suit states, about that time a fly was able to get into her ear and lay eggs. Those eggs grew into maggots over the course of several days without being noticed, the suit alleges.

McCann, who cannot speak, was reportedly tugging on her ear Sept. 16 when family members and nurses discovered the maggots crawling out of her ear, said attorney Henry P. Gruss.

She was taken to Northwest Community Hospital, where 57 maggots were removed from her ear.

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $50,000 for several counts of emotional distress and negligence.

"They owe the patient the highest duty of care to prevent this from happening, to keep the place sanitary and to monitor her care," Gruss said. "It was disgusting; her daughter still has nightmares about maggots crawling out of her mother's ear."

Lutheran Home officials maintain they did nothing wrong.

"The Lutheran Home is concerned about this occurrence and confident that the medical treatment was professionally responsible and attentive," said Phil Hemmer, nursing home administrator.

Hemmer said the hospital is not looking to settle the lawsuit because it is not at fault.

"We've been in business for 120 years and we've never had anything like this before," he said. "It was an extremely unusual incident."

However, Gruss said that if doctors and nurses working at the home did not notice the maggots, they may not have been delivering McCann's ear drops as required.

"As far as I'm concerned the facts speak for themselves," Gruss said.

The lawsuit states McCann "sustained severe injuries and significant elder abuse and neglect, including aural myiasis or maggot infestation of her left ear."

An investigation by the Illinois Department of Public Health found that there were no deficiencies in care, said department spokeswoman Melanie Arnold.

Arnold said she couldn't discuss specifics of the case, but when the department goes to a facility it checks the medical care plan for the patient and checks to see if that plan has been followed. If there is written documentation that the plan was followed, it's hard for the department to prove something different happened.

A court date for the suit has not yet been set.

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