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Privatized care: Ibuprofen as bone cancer destroys inmate’s spine


At first, Anthony Carvajal thought it was just a simple slip and fall. Serving five years on theft and firearm charges, the 44-year-old was in the kitchen of a prison work-release center when his legs buckled.

After a large lump emerged on his spine, he was told by Corizon medical staff that it was a pulled muscle. He was given ibuprofen.

When a nurse got a reflex after tapping his knee, Carvajal said, he was told to come back after he was paralyzed, “because there’s nothing wrong with you.”

Months passed. Carvajal began losing weight.

And the pain was unrelenting. As one doctor later described it, the pain would have been the equivalent of someone twisting Carvajal’s spinal vertebrae until they broke, then wrenching them out of his back.

Carvajal lay in his bunk and prayed to die.

Frantic, Carvajal’s father deluged the prison with phone calls and letters seeking help. The elderly Carvajal was told nothing was seriously wrong.

Six months after Corizon medical staff began treating Anthony Carvajal’s crippling back and leg pain with over-the-counter painkillers, a social worker called Henry Carvajal. His son had multiple myeloma. The bone cancer was slowly destroying his spine.

By one estimate, early treatment might have given Carvajal as much as another 10 years. When he was released from a Tampa hospital in May, doctors gave him weeks.

So far, he is beating those odds. Authorized for compassionate release by the state Parole Board, Carvajal is living with his father outside of Tampa.

Corizon recently settled with Carvajal for undisclosed terms. No suit was filed. Details are confidential. But, said Carvajal attorney Jack Gordon, it was a “cooperative resolution. Corizon did the right thing.”


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