The physician who directs medical care at the Harford County Detention Center said yesterday that a woman inmate who died Sunday after an apparent asthma attack was receiving "the first-line therapy" for her ailment.
Contrary to earlier comments from the woman's fiance, Dr. Kermit P. Bonovich said he did not simply take her off her critical asthma medications.
He said he put her on an inhaled steroid, rather than an oral steroid, which he thought would be more effective and would be better for her recently discovered pregnancy.
The woman, Niecey D. Aldridge, 24, of Aberdeen, who was serving 90 days for probation and traffic violations, died early Sunday at Fallston General Hospital after jail medical staff could not detect her pulse and called 911. She had been complaining of shortness of breath.
Ms. Aldridge's fiance, Leon Boddy, said that she had complained to him for a week before her death that she was having trouble breathing in the hot jail and that jail officials had taken away her prescription asthma medication.
"Every time she complained, she was responded to," Dr. Bonovich said. He said he saw her in twice during her 18-day stay at the jail and she did not exhibit breathing problems on those occasions.
"I wish I could have seen her and examined her when she was having one of these episodes," he said.
Dr. Bonovich said that after learning of Ms. Aldridge's pregnancy, he prescribed Vanceril, an inhaled steroid, for her to prevent asthma attacks and gave her access to Proventil, an inhaled drug that opens an asthmatic's airways.
"She was on what is considered the first-line therapy" for asthma, Dr. Bonovich said.
Dr. Bonovich said he was puzzled by the suddenness with which Ms. Aldridge's condition deteriorated late Saturday. And, he said he was puzzled by how her earlier complaints about shortness of breath were resolved with oxygen treatment.
"It just doesn't sound like an asthmatic," he said. "It sounds almost cardiac" related.
The state medical examiner's office said Monday that Ms. Aldridge died of natural causes resulting from her asthma.
The Criminal Investigation Division of the county sheriff's office is investigating the death, as is the policy with all jail deaths regardless of the cause.
"The best we can do is wait for the medical examiner's report and see what they come up with," Dr. Bonovich said.
He said he hoped that the medical examiner would "give special attention to" the possibility that Ms. Aldridge may have had a heart problem.
Complete written reports from the medical examiner usually take several weeks to prepare.