Police in Colorado are probing the death of an 8-year-old boy whose mother said he was accidentally prescribed a fatal dosage of medication.
In addition, the boy's mother, Caroline Steinbrecher, said two different hospitals that treated the child never reported the overdose to authorities and are withholding records that she has repeatedly requested.
Jake Steinbrecher was hospitalized at Poudre Valley Hospital and then at Children’s Hospital Colorado in October 2015 when his parents couldn’t wake him after he took a liquid dosage of Clonidine that he received from an unrelated pharmacy.
Jake had been taking the antihypertensive and sedative used to treat high blood pressure and ADHD in pill form for three years without issue, Steinbrecher told InsideEdition.com.
Steinbrecher, a veterinary technician since 2003, said she immediately thought the prescription could be the root of her son’s suffering, but she said her and Jake’s father’s pleas to medical professionals at Children’s Hospital Colorado to call the pharmacy or law enforcement officials fell on deaf ears.
“It’s drilled into [medical professionals'] heads, if a child arrives that has OD’d, that the police and child protective services are supposed to be notified immediately, and no one did,” she said, saying that failure to do so is in violation of mandatory reporting laws.
In Colorado, C.R.S. 19-3-304 requires a mandatory reporter — which includes medical professionals — to alert local law enforcement if they have reasonable cause to know, suspect or observe a child being subjected to abuse or neglect.
Though it is not clear Jake’s case would fall under such parameters, his mother is steadfast that it does.
"This is literally what I and his father were begging for every 15 minutes. And they didn’t do it.”
An employee of Good Day Pharmacy in Loveland eventually returned one of Steinbrecher’s many calls, allegedly telling her that the little boy had accidentally been given 1,000 times his correct dosage.
Jake’s prescription called for a .03 milligrams per 2 milliliters dosage, but he was instead given 30 milligrams per 2 milliliters, ARUP Laboratories wrote in its analysis of the medicine. On October 31, 2015, Jake had taken 1,000 times his normal dosage.
The pharmacist accused of filling Jake's prescription incorrectly has not responded to multiple requests for comment by InsideEdition.com. She's currently still licensed to practice in Colorado, according to online records.
A spokesman for the Division of Professsions and Occupations said in a statement to InsideEdition.com: "To date, there has been no final discipline meted out. The matter has been tabled by the State Board of Pharmacy pending additional information."
It had been three days since Jake had taken the wrong dosage when the employee called to note the error, Steinbrecher said.
If police had been notified of the circumstances surrounding Jake’s condition, the alleged cause of his symptoms could’ve been discovered sooner and treated properly, she argued.
"The hospital could’ve picked up the phone and gotten someone to open that pharmacy sooner,” she said. “If I were to take my son to the hospital, said ‘this guy on the road shoved heroin down my son’s throat,’ they would’ve called the police in a heartbeat. It should’ve been reported immediately.”
Jake was released from the hospital on November 3, 2015, his mother said. He never took another dosage of Clonidine again.
Steinbrecher said despite being assured that there was no need for a follow-up doctor’s appointment; Jake experienced symptoms of withdrawal, including vomiting and the shakes.
“He woke with nightmares almost every night. He was forever changed by this,” Steinbrecher said.
Jake fell ill again on June 7, 2016 and was rushed to Poudre Valley Hospital.
“Jake’s blood was clotting upon admission and the staff knew it,” Steinbrecher said, but alleged the staff did not treat him properly.
“And he kept clotting and clotting and clotting in the tube … and they couldn’t get a clean [blood] sample,” Steinbrecher said. “Eleven hours later, my son died from clotting … PVH did nothing to treat his conditions.”
Months later, Steinbrecher said PVH will still not amend the medical records that show Jake was clotting.
“They are flat out refusing,” she said. “They are saying their records are correct. They are trying to hide the mistakes they made.”
Children’s Hospital Colorado released two hours’ worth of EEG video and audio footage from Jake’s time at the hospital to Steinbrecher, but Steinbrecher claims they recorded for two days and will not release all the footage.
“They omitted every single part when we asked them to find out what was in the bottle, every single part where we asked them to stop treating him for what he doesn’t have. They took out when he woke from a coma…the most medically significant part,” she said.
The videos are excruciating to watch for anyone, let alone Jake’s mom.
In one two-minute clip, Jake cries out, screaming and clutching his leg but unable to articulate where the pain is exactly. His mother understands that the source of so much suffering is coming from his leg and when she begins to rub it, he calms slightly.
“You don’t want to be here, I know,” she murmurs, trying to comfort him.
In another snippet of footage, the little boy, a talented dancer who loved to be active, could barely stand to be touched, writhing in pain as nurses rolled him on his side.
“You can do it, yes you can,” Steinbrecher says.
Watching the footage is the only way Steinbrecher can identify what’s missing, she said. But it’s hard.
“I had to stop,” she said after watching the footage again.
Her attorney, Sarah Hubbard, said the hospitals have stopped responding to her client’s requests.
“They’re essentially shutting down at this point,” Hubbard said. “They have that camera focused on that little boy the entire time he’s getting his EEG.
“[Jake’s parents] were begging them to just find out and confirm with the pharmacy that there was this overdose. And [the hospital would] just throw up their hands and say ‘well they’re closed,’… and none of that material has been provided. And it should be.”
A spokesman for University of Colorado Health (UCHealth), which Poudre Valley Hospital is a part of, declined to comment, saying federal HIPAA law prevents hospitals and providers from sharing any information about patients.
Children’s Hospital Colorado also cited federal HIPAA laws in their response, saying: “Children’s Hospital Colorado is committed to providing the best care possible to our patients and families. Out of respect, and in compliance with HIPAA privacy and patient confidentiality laws, we are not authorized to share specific patient information.”
In correspondence that appears to be between Steinbrecher and the hospitals provided to InsideEdition.com by Steinbrecher, officials maintain that the records released are accurate and complete.
“We have no additional records to send to you,” an administrator with Children’s Hospital Colorado told Steinbrecher in an email.
At PVH, a hospital official told Steinbrecher her request to have her son’s records amended to reflect the clotting was denied, saying in a letter: "The information contained in your son (sic), Jake Steinbrecher, chart for his June 7, 2016 date-ofservice (sic) is considered to be accurate and true.”
Still, Steinbrecher maintains this is not the case.
Steinbrecher said she has reached out to the Loveland Police Department and the Joint Commission, a not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies health care organizations and programs, about the hospitals’ alleged refusals to provide full and accurate medical records.
The Loveland Police Department has an open death investigation reported by Steinbrecher, a spokesman told InsideEdition.com. He could not provide further details, citing the ongoing investigation.
A subpoena for the records cannot be brought until Jake’s death certificate is completed. The Loveland County Coroner’s office said it is waiting on test results to complete the death certificate.
A spokesperson for the Joint Commission's Office of Quality and Patient Safety (OQPS) told InsideEdition.com they can can neither confirm nor deny the details of Steinbrecher's concerns.
"OQPS is currently reviewing the concerns," the spokesperson said.
Steinbrecher said that the full footage from the EEG and the amended manual differential are key parts of getting justice for Jake.
“Once I have those two pieces of information, I can move forward. I can explain to the world the mistakes that were made that killed my son,” Steinbrecher said.
Still mourning Jake, the devastated mother is fighting to hold accountable all those whom she says are responsible for her son’s death, Hubbard said.
“She has a very clear goal to find out what happened to her son and who’s to blame,” Hubbard said.
A lawsuit against those who made errors that resulted in Jake’s death could be forthcoming, Hubbard said, but Steinbrecher said any prospect of a monetary gain means nothing to her.
“The reason that you sue is that you can accomplish your ultimate goal. And unfortunately, nobody listens unless there’s a lawsuit. Once your child passes away, is not about the money. I would give anything to get Jake back here for her,” Hubbard said, swallowing hard and tearing up.
The suggestion also makes Steinbrecher emotional.
“When people say, ‘why don’t you sue them?’ … Hold your baby in your hand, have a person walk up to you and say ‘I’ll give you a million dollars, and I’m going to torture them and kill them.’ Is it worth it?” Steinbrecher said, choking back tears.
“I want people in jail … These people, I don’t think they should be medically treating people. Money doesn’t make what I lost come back.”