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Mark Hayward's City Matters: The money wasn't enough to save Amanda

By MARK HAYWARD
January 12. 2018 9:06PM
Lisa Kezer sits by the bedside table of her daughter, Amanda, who had an ultrasound picture of her unborn child on display. Amanda died last month from heroin-related heart problems. She lost her baby at the Valley Street jail before her death. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Amanda Kezer sued and got $40,000.

Now if I were an inmate at Valley Street jail and got a $40,000 check to settle a medical malpractice lawsuit, I’d be pretty pleased.

It didn’t do Kezer any good.

On Dec. 9, Kezer — a pretty 27-year-old brunette with a disarming smile — died of heart complications related to her seven-some years of heroin use.

As it turns out, money couldn’t buy good health. It couldn’t get her clean. And it couldn’t make up for the loss of her first — and only — child. But the money does what Hillsborough County and the no-longer-doctor Matthew Masewic want. It ended the legal saga involving the sad story of Amanda and Isabella Rose Kezer.

On Dec. 16, 2014, Amanda was arrested in Raymond for heroin possession. Thirty-weeks pregnant, Amanda was bleeding, and cops took her to Exeter Hospital. Emergency physicians diagnosed an infected cyst, wrote a prescription for antibiotics and told police to get Kezer back to the hospital at the first sign of labor.

She ended up at Valley Street, the jail that’s paid out hundreds of thousands to settle lawsuits involving inmate mistreatment and substandard medical care.

Thirteen days later, Isabella Rose was stillborn. Thirteen days in which the prescription for antibiotics was never filled, according to court papers. In 13 days, the jail’s doctor only saw her once and didn’t read her chart, records say. When she started going into labor, jail nurses gave her water and a mild laxative.

“We will never know if she would have been a good mother and come off the drugs,” said Amanda’s mother Lisa Kezer, her mother, who spoke to me a month after Amanda died. “They stole that from me and her.”

Her case was bad enough that Masewic surrendered his medical license two months ago in the face of a full-blown hearing by the state Board of Medicine into his treatment of Kezer and other inmates. (He denied any wrongdoing.)

To get a notion of what Masewic’s approach to jail health care, here is what he told Kezer’s lawyers during a deposition:

“I would have liked to remember that this person needed antibiotics or had a prescription for antibiotics. However, I can’t rely on memory for that; it’s why I rely on the nurses and the records.”

Lisa Kezer closes the door while at the cabinet containing the remains of her daughter, Amanda, and Amanda's unborn child, at her Raymond home. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

“Q: And before examining the inmate do you take a few minutes and read the chart?

A: Not usually.

Q: Wouldn’t it be helpful for you to know the medical history of that inmate prior to examining the inmate?

A: Yes.

Q: So why don’t you read the chart?

A: You get a more accurate (sic) if you ask them.”

If you want to read more, visit UnionLeader.com and read this filing by Kezer’s lawyers. And the county’s version

The settlement entailed $30,000 from Hillsborough County and an undisclosed amount from Masewic. 

Lisa Kezer said it amounted to about $40,000 after lawyer fees.

Masewic was the second Valley Street jail doctor forced from his job within the last 10 years. 

The jail fired Dr. Charles Ward after losing a 2008 federal lawsuit involving prescribing practices at the jail.

Jail Superintendent David Dionne said both Ward and Masewic did a good job.

“You gotta look at the bigger picture,” he said. The jail doctor is responsible for 500 to 600 inmates, and 20 to 30 a day need medical attention, Dionne said. Many are in poor health and suffer from drug addiction and mental illness.

“He (Masewic) was here for five years and he got five complaints against him,” Dionne said.

Let’s look at an even bigger picture: Money. After state officials suspended Masewic’s license in May 2016, the jail signed a contract with a New Hampshire practice that specializes in jail medicine.

Lisa Kezer in her daughter Amanda's room at her Raymond home. Amanda died last month from heroin-related heart problems. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

The $26,250-a-month payment was four times what the jail paid Masewic.

That’s the big picture. For years, the state’s largest county ran jail medical care on the cheap.

Dionne said the new contract provides two people — one physician and one physician assistant — on call. 

They also visit the jail on a regular basis. Meanwhile, the head nurse at the jail, Denise Hartley, earned her RN certificate about two years ago after running the jail infirmary for years without it.

Dionne said he was sad to hear of Amanda’s death. But he was not surprised. Drug addiction leads to poor health and poor choices. For example, when police arrested Amanda, she had hidden heroin in a body cavity while pregnant, Dionne said.

“The road she was on, she was driving the vehicle,” Dionne said. “Deep down inside, I knew if they made a settlement and she got money, this kid was going to die.”

Lisa Kezer said her daughter took her baby’s death hard; she slept with a framed sonogram image of Isabella Rose on her bedside. Amanda never got off the drugs, which eventually damaged her heart.

Most of the settlement went to drugs, Lisa said.

When you lose a child to drugs, there’s always second guessing. Were you a good parent? Why did one kid end up fine but not the other? Were you too tough or too soft? Lisa said she and her husband put Amanda in five treatment programs; she thinks the brevity of a 30-day program is a joke.

Lisa now believes she was an enabler and tears up. Who knows? Earlier this week, I told her, we ran an article about a young woman who fell into drug addiction and ended up the girlfriend of an alleged gang leader. She was raped, cut and then targeted when she talked to police.

Not Amanda’s fate.

“The system failed her from day one,” Lisa said. “Leaving her in Valley Street jail, we thought we were doing the right thing, that she’d be in a safe place.”

Mark Hayward’s City Matters appears Saturday in the New Hampshire Union Leader and UnionLeader.com. He can be reached at mhayward@unionleader.com.


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