A 17-year-old Boston high school student suffered a stroke while in class but did not receive the medical assistance he needed after officials called his mother instead of 911.
The teen’s mother, who is wheelchair-bound, is furious, asking why the school nurse did not recognize the signs of his health failing when the boy complained about feeling tired and his side felt numb.
D’Andre Hicks, a junior at the Henderson Inclusion (Upper School) in Dorchester, Mass, became ill while under the school’s supervision in early May 2022.
After telling his school nurse he felt “weak,” “shaky,” and “numb,” she called his mother Alishia Hicks to pick him up from the school, ignoring the signs suggesting the boy was having a stroke and the mother’s request to get more immediate assistance for her child.
“He came to the nurse’s office to report that he was feeling weak, shaky and that he felt numb weakness on his left side,” the mother said.
She recalled telling her nurse, “He’s going to die if he’s stroking, they’re taking too long to dial 911.”
Alishia argues the school’s top medical professional should have considered first responders who would have gotten to the boy first, noting her proximity to the school and inability to move fast because she is confined to a wheelchair.
Instead, the nurse told the mom, “Well, my professional, my medical evaluation, it doesn’t look like he needs an ambulance, somebody should come pick him up.”
Eventually, the school called 911, who arrived 30-45 minutes after the initial call to the mother — despite the teen remaining in crisis. The call was made after the school reached out to the Department of Children and Families because the mom didn’t come immediately.
“You could hear the other one in the background,” Alishia recalled. “The other nurse said to call DCF.”
Once an ambulance showed up, the young man was taken to Tufts Medical Center where he was diagnosed as having an acute ischemic stroke. The doctors stopped the stroke using medication but kept the child for two days.
The mother knew it all along, saying, “Even I know the symptoms of a stroke. Why didn’t the nurse?”
Boston 25 News reports Alishia, herself, has had three strokes in her life. She further explained her family has a history of strokes.
“Listen there’s a small vessel problem on my mother’s side of the family that causes a stroke easily if there’s any blockage in it is so important to get him to the hospital right away because he could die,” she shared.
“Your professional eye may not see the stroke,” Alishia said as she tried to communicate. “It’s not visible but if he’s telling you he is weak on his left side, please, at this point I’m pleading with all intensity that I could muster up with no voice. Please get my son to the hospital, please.”
D’Andre said, “They start arguing with her on that while I’m out here stroking on the bed right now trying to stay up. I was afraid that if I fell asleep or something like that I was going to go into a coma or probably for the worst.”
His mother says, “He’s not happy about the school right now he doesn’t feel safe there. His words when he was in the hospital, he said ‘Mom I can’t believe they didn’t believe me.’”
Boston School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius personally reached out to the mother to apologize; Alishia shared. Cassellius told her the district is already reviewing the incident.
In a statement released by the Boston Public Schools, officials wanted to make clear their first concern is “first with the health and well-being of this student.”
“We are glad to hear he is recovering well,” it continued in part. “This serious incident is being reviewed by appropriate BPS staff and therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further on this specific matter.”
While the mother acknowledged the Superintendent’s outreach, she could not help but think race played a part in the school’s response.
Her thoughts about race and medical care are in line with a recent study put out by the American Bar Association about “Implicit Bias and Racial Disparities in Health Care.” They claim, “Black people simply are not receiving the same quality of health care that their white counterparts receive.” Her son is evidence of this.
The school also released a statement to the student body’s families informing them about the paramedics coming to the campus. Instead of referencing D’Andre’s plight, they shared with the parents that paramedics were called to support a student having a diabetic episode.
Neither the school nor DCF released a public statement, but have confirmed the Hicks incident is being investigated.
No word on if the family will be filing a civil rights lawsuit, alleging his rights were violated.