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Witnesses: Nursing Home Patient Bedsores Crawling With Maggots

October 11, 1985

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AP) _ An elderly woman at a Gulf Coast nursing home had a bedsore infested with maggots before she died, a nurse’s aide testified in the trial of the home and five people accused of murdering her by neglect.

″They were just crawling around, just crawling. I just wanted to howl,″ Sherel Johnson testified about the maggots she saw on 87-year-old Elnora Breed, who died Nov. 20, 1978, 47 days after she entered the Autumn Hills nursing home in Texas City.

Ms. Johnson said she worked at Autumn Hills nearly five years, but received no training until May 1979. She also testified that the only nurse on duty during the overnight shift often slept all night.

She and registered nurse Jurline Boone, who also testified about what she saw while working at Autumn Hills, were warned by Galveston County Judge Don Morgan that their statements could be used against them.

″Any person who learns of abuse or neglect at a nursing home has a duty to report it to the state,″ Morgan told Mrs. Boone. ″Do you understand that in the event the state decided to bring charges against you, you have the right to consult counsel and to refuse to answer questions?″

″It’s the truth and I’m not going to retract it,″ Mrs. Boone said. ″I don’t have anything to hide and I’ll continue.″

Mrs. Boone, who said she worked at the nursing home for two weeks in September 1978 before Mrs. Breed became a patient, testified that she saw maggots on another patient’s foot.

Mrs. Boone said another nurse told her on her first day on the job that ″I was going to be sorry I came.″ She said she quit because the nursing home was ″a mess.″

Describing finding the maggots, Mrs. Boone said, ″I smelled a different smell that didn’t smell like the urine smell I was used to smelling. I followed my nose to her room. Her slipper fell off and there were maggots in her foot.″

The nurse said she found the nursing home severely disorganized, grossly understaffed and the workers lacking in training. ″There wasn’t the supplies I thought should be there to give basic care,″ she said.

Mrs. Boone said she reported her observations to nursing director Cassandra Canlas, a defendant in the case. ″She told me she realized this and would very much like to do something about this. She told me she didn’t have the budget.″

The nurse said aides did not wash their hands and did not turn patients often enough to avoid bedsores. She also testified that some aides shirked their duties and one could not read or write.

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