A 9-year-old boy who died last year while in the care of Arizona’s child welfare agency was hospitalized twice for a life-threatening diabetes complication in the weeks leading up to his death, according to an autopsy report released this month.
The state took Jakob Blodgett into its custody on Dec. 9 after his father, Richard Blodgett, was arrested on suspicion of drug possession. Before the end of the year, Jakob was dead.
The Maricopa County medical examiner’s report listed the boy’s cause of death as complications of Type 1 diabetes, including the serious complication known as ketoacidosis. The manner of death was listed as natural.
Blodgett, 47, has said his son was diagnosed with diabetes as a toddler, meaning his body couldn’t produce enough insulin to survive.
Blodgett, who already had a drug case pending when he was arrested, remains in custody in Holbrook, about three hours outside of Phoenix. In a message sent Monday night from the facility, he said he has been struggling to cope with his son’s death.
“i dont have a choice but to deal with it as best i can,” he wrote to The Associated Press, “it sucks and my heart is broken.”
The report states that Jakob’s medical history included “poorly controlled” diabetes, although the doctor who performed the boy’s autopsy didn’t specify how far back that history goes. The report largely focuses on the weeks he was in the state’s care.
Jakob was hospitalized for ketoacidosis on the same day he came under the state’s care, according to the report. He was released from the hospital Dec. 15 and taken to a group home in metropolitan Phoenix. While at the home, Jakob resisted his insulin therapy and glucose monitoring, the autopsy said.
By the time he was taken back to the hospital Dec. 21, Jakob was vomiting and his brain was swelling, according to the autopsy.
Jared Greenholz, a California-based emergency medicine physician whose specialties include treating diabetic ketoacidosis, said early symptoms include excessive thirst and urination, while more severe symptoms include nausea and vomiting.
Greenholz, who reviewed the medical examiner’s report, said Jakob’s body would have been under more stress than usual when he was hospitalized for the second time, because he had been treated for ketoacidosis less than two weeks earlier.
Blodgett has said his son already was on life support when a worker from the Arizona Department of Child Safety visited him in jail in Holbrook to deliver the news.
The state agency declined comment Monday on the medical examiner’s findings, citing confidentiality laws.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation into Jakob’s death. A spokesperson said Friday that investigation is ongoing.
Blodgett has said he was managing his son’s condition for years before his recent arrest. He believes the state failed in its duty to protect his son, either by not monitoring Jakob’s blood sugar levels or not ensuring that he had enough insulin to prevent ketoacidosis.
Amy Hernandez, a personal injury and wrongful death lawyer retained by Blodgett to look into his son’s death, said she thinks the medical examiner’s report supports Blodgett’s theory.
“Even if it wasn’t the most tightly controlled with Richard, once Jakob went into the custody of the state, the state at the point was responsible for his care and welfare,” Hernandez said.
Associated Press journalist Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff contributed to this report.