Diana Kropka

As Interviewed by Alexis Pool, 3/16/18

Diana Kropka: In Her Own Words

"My name is Alexis Pool, and this is my grandmother’s story. She fought against injustice in nursing homes for her disabled daughter after coming upon a disturbing amount of deaths, abuse, and terrible circumstances and she shows that even small change is worth making."

Katie was born with CMV, cytomegalovirus, in 1979. Her prognosis for survival was 5 days, so Katie is sever profoundly disabled in all areas. Cognitive, motor skills, verbal, everything. So, she did survive, and lived at home until she was 8, and I placed her in a nursing home so she could get the services she didn’t qualify for if she was at home.

And everything was okay for a while, and then she had an ARD meeting for her school, for special ED, and the special ED director asked me how I liked her new bed. And I said, “What new bed?” and she said, “oh, you need to come see this.” So, I went the next morning, and it was a cage bed. It was the size of a twin mattress, 5 feet tall post, all the way around it. and it was a cage. That they’d put her in the bed, and it had a net tied over the top so she couldn't crawl out. I was not happy. Katie was not happy. And they were leaving her in this cage bed, all day, every day, unless for when she was eating. And it really had a terrible effect on her. She became combative, and their response to being combative was to give her psychotropic drugs. I started fighting this cage bed, because it was traumatizing her. And, going through the different agencies that should have been helping her, and nobody was helping. I got in touch with the governor's office, and they went to all of these hearings with me to all these hearings, and I testified at 32, senate hearings, on disability policy and medical services for chronically ill and medically fragile children. I did this for 3 years, 3 years I testified before senate committees, and nobody seemed to care. And, the governor’s office asked me to write a report for them on services available in the state of Texas for medically fragile, chronically ill children, and then we had a legislative election, and they shelved the report. That eventually got Katie out of the cage bed, it took me 1 year and 1 day to get her out.

While investigating all the complaints for Katie, a nurse asked to speak with an investigator privately, and he said fine, went behind closed doors, and she said, “You need to look at this because we have 12 children in 13 months dead under suspicious circumstances.” And they discovered that they were what they call Cherry picking and slough coating. Slough coating was a Texas, only Texas, Nursing phrase for, if the child went into cardiac or respiratory arrest, they would simply just close the door, and go to the break room, and have a cup of coffee, and wait, and quote, check on them in and hour, and of course, the child would be dead because they were in arrest and nobody did anything to save them. And it was a terrible mess, I mean, most of the mothers of those children who were low income, minority mothers, that were young, that didn’t know how to fight for their child, they didn’t know the regulations, they didn’t know the public law about it. And so, I had been fighting for so long that I, everybody knew me, everybody knew me, and I ended up advocating for them. And we ended up having a procom on nursing homes, and pediatrics in nursing homes, and the slough coating deaths, because what they were doing was they were letting the child, that was very severe, and was expensive to take care of, die, letting them die, and replacing them with somebody that wasn’t near as severe, and was less expensive, so that way they made more money. And that was incomparable. There were never any legal criminal charges brought because the AD office said they couldn’t prove that they intended for them to die. And there were several lawsuits, and I had a lawsuit filed against the nursing home for Katie, but my attorney came and said that I had made so much noise about Katie, and I was notorious for keeping it in the public, so people would pay attention, that my lawsuit would overshadow the lawsuits of the dead children, so I withdrew my lawsuit so the other people could get some justice, and I don’t know if they ever did or not.

The governor’s office went with me to an administrative board hearing for nursing home administrators, and she was on trial basically, an administrative hearing, and got her license revoked, and problem with that is that board is made up of nursing home administrators who cover each other's backs, and they hadn’t revoke a license in almost 10 years, and I got the first one.

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