End medical neglect: Lara’s story

This is the story of Lara Yisbert, age 39, an incarcerated man at MCI Norfolk.

Lara started experiencing severe back pain more than 18 months ago. His experience with Wellpath first began when he was seen by a nurse practitioner who diagnosed him with sciatic nerve damage despite the lack of tests, x-rays, and MRI scans. Lara was simply given Tylenol and then sent on his way. 

After this event, Lara’s back pain worsened over time. Finding it difficult to walk or sleep, Lara complained frequently to the medical staff about his condition. Wellpath personnel changed his prescriptions for pain medication seven times without success. On top of this, Lara saw a physical therapist who applied an electro stimulus to his back while restraining his legs, a procedure which provided no pain relief. Then, in late April, Lara saw a foot doctor who wanted to inject a shot of cortisone into his back. Lacking a proper diagnosis and information about the procedure and its effects, Lara refused the shot.

Since February 2020, Lara has submitted 15 sick slips and four grievances to the medical department, each time asking for tests, to get sent out for an MRI, or for any treatment by a doctor that would give him an accurate diagnosis for what had become chronic, debilitating back pain. As a result of his pain, Lara walks with a pronounced limp that requires the assistance of a cane and finds it difficult to sleep at night. Lara continued to file sick slips and grievances – all of which were repeatedly denied by the Wellpath provider. 

Lara’s experience is, sadly, very common and the state hasn’t done anything to improve these conditions. The Massachusetts Office of the State Auditor filed a report that found that the Department of Correction failed to provide timely response to sick calls from incarcerated people. Importantly, this audit occured before the pandemic, and given the rise in healthcare needs since then, these delays are likely worse now. Even though incarcerated people are legally entitled to file grievances for this and other kinds of medical neglect, those grievances are essentially never acted on by prison officials.

Frustrated and fed up, Lara filed a request for medical treatment under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a result, Wellpath finally sent him to Boston Medical Center for tests. Lara saw a neurosurgeon and was given an MRI that properly diagnosed him with a herniated disc – the answer he was waiting for after more than 18 months of undue suffering and pain. He was then told he would be scheduled for surgery to repair the damage.

 For Lara, this sad saga of neglect, inadequate and inept medical care continues, despite his diagnosis, as he is still in pain while he awaits his surgery and continues to have problems with obtaining his pain medication. 

Lara Yisbert’s inadequate and negligent care at the hands of the Wellpath medical provider at MCI Norfolk is just one of several examples that demonstrate how the institution does not provide what one needs to thrive. Instead, Wellpath’s negligence and inhuman treatment perpetuates and deepens harm. In Lara’s words:

“I don’t feel I should have been made to beg for my surgery. I should have been sent to a specialist two years ago. Doctors need to be consulted sooner when people complain of serious issues. I was ignored and this shouldn’t happen.”

Lara Yisbert

For more stories of medical neglect:

Loved ones lost to Wellpath’s horrific indifference