Ex-Rikers inmate files notice of claim after treatable condition leads to paralysis

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A former inmate at Rikers Island is filing a lawsuit after he claims his repeated complaints about pain were not taken seriously until it was too late.

Kenzo Capulong, 29, was eventually taken to the hospital for emergency surgery, but now, he's paralyzed and confined to a hospital bed.

"Every time that I went to see him, he was complaining of pain," mom Xiomara Perez said. "He couldn't move his head."

Perez described her son's rapid decline from pain and numbness to paralysis from the waist down, now in a hospital bed here in Bellevue after first being incarcerated at Rikers back on December 16. Capulong had a pending drug case, and his bail had been revoked after he had failed to attend drug rehab.

"In this case, this young man will be paralyzed for life," attorney Sanford Rubenstein said. "Because he was not given the appropriate medical care at Rikers or sent for it."

His attorneys say he went to the sick bay at Rikers at least four times, but all they gave him was pain medication. But what Capulong needed was a scan. He had an epidural abscess, which is a space created by an infected cyst, causing pressure on his spine.

It wasn't until January 12 that Capulong was finally transported to Bellevue, but by then, his options were limited.

"This was treatable had it been recognized," attorney Ira Newman said. "Diagnosable and preventable and curable."

Capulong is not the first inmate to complain about poor health care services at Rikers, and in fact, his case occurred shortly after the transition away from private health care provider Corizon, which the city dumped back in July.

The current provider at the jail is the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation, which issued a statement saying they are "working aggressively with the Department of Corrections to improve the quality of and access to care."

But for Capulong, an artist who now can't walk or move his right hand, family members say the punishment far outweighed his crime.

"What happened to him is unfair," sister Anastazia Kim said. "Nobody should have to go through what he went through."
Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.