‘This did not have to happen.’ Child loses vision; Kentucky mom faces prison.

By Melissa Pettitt

Kentucky New Era

Johanna Hoskins
Johanna Hoskins

A Hopkinsville woman has been convicted of child abuse by repeatedly failing to seek medical treatment that left her child blind in one eye.

Johanna Hoskins, 35, was found guilty Tuesday by a Christian Circuit Court jury. The jury recommended a sentence of two years for the Class D felony, second-degree criminal abuse of a child 12 or younger.

Hoskins was charged in August 2016 with first-degree criminal abuse. She was accused of failing to seek medical treatment for her child between August 2015 and March 2016, when emergency surgery had to be conducted at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

According to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Maggie Gigandet, Hoskins’ child began lactating from the chest during a visit out of the area with family in August 2015. When the child returned home to Hoskins, she was supposed to seek treatment, but failed to do so in August. Two September appointments with Dr. Patricia Blewett were canceled by Hoskins, no appointments were made in October, and Hoskins canceled a Nov. 3, 2015, appointment.

On Nov. 4, 2015, Hoskins took the child to see Blewett for a routine follow-up for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It was then that Blewett learned of the lactation, Gigandet said, and Blewett ordered labs which were conducted the following day. A nurse informed Hoskins the next day that lab results for prolactin (a hormone that induces lactation) was high and that an MRI was needed. When the appointment was made, attempts at contacting Hoskins by phone and letter were unsuccessful.

It wasn’t until Dec. 29, 2015, that the child was seen by another doctor, Robert Bastin, an optometrist. According to Gigandet, Hoskins said her child had suffered a sports injury about a month earlier and had complained about not being able to see, but Bastin couldn’t find any evidence of trauma to the eyes. The child had vision problems in the left eye, and Bastin referred Hoskins to a specialist. Hoskins took the child to only one of those appointments, which was the next day. Hoskins canceled two other appointments.

In early January 2016, after missing one appointment, Hoskins took the child to see Blewett, who learned that the MRI appointment. The MRI was completed Jan. 12, 2016, and Hoskins was notified the same day that her child had a mass on the brain and was referred to Vanderbilt.

Between Jan. 19 and Feb. 23, 2016, Hoskins canceled five scheduled appointments at Vanderbilt.

The next time the child would see a doctor was March 3, 2016, after losing sight in the right eye. When Bastin evaluated the child, the vision in the right eye had worsened to 20/400, compared to the 20/25 rating just two months earlier. Bastin also then learned that Hoskins and her child had not attended two of the three scheduled specialist appointments, according to Gigandet.

“It was a significant loss of vision in the right eye,” Gigandet said.

On March 4, 2016, Hoskins took the child to a scheduled appointment at Vanderbilt. The child was referred by Dr. Amy Potter, a pediatrician, to the emergency room, was admitted and spend the night in the intensive care unit. The child had urgent brain surgery the following day, a Saturday, with Dr. Robert Naftel, a pediatric neurosurgeon. Gigandet said the goal of the surgery was to decompress the optic nerves. The mass on the brain was a tumor that was encroaching on the nerves and causing vision problems.

Gigandet said the type of tumor, prolactinoma, is typically treated with an oral medication. She said both Potter and Naftel stated the child could have avoided the brain surgery and vision loss could have been prevented if the medication had been administered before the loss began. Even if vision loss had started, Gigandet said, the child would have had a better chance at recovering.

After the surgery, the child did regain 20/20 vision in the right eye; however, the left eye’s vision problems are believed to be permanent, Gigandet said.

Issues of insurance or finances were not raised as reasons Hoskins’ failed to seek treatment for her child, Gigandet said.

“One of the most upsetting thing about this (case) is that this could have been treated with pills … such a simple fix was available,” Gigandet said, adding due to the age of the child, between 11 and 12 years old during the course of the issues, the child couldn’t seek treatment alone.

“(The child) didn’t ask for this and now they’re blind,” she said.

Currently, the child is in the home of a legal guardian and being well cared for, Gigandet said.

Though Hoskins was originally charged with first-degree criminal abuse, a Class C felony, the jury was presented with three options, including second-degree criminal abuse, a Class D felony, and third-degree criminal abuse, a misdemeanor.

Jurors found Hoskins guilty of second-degree criminal abuse and Class D felonies have a sentence range of one to five years in prison. A two-year sentence was recommended.

Final sentencing was set for Dec. 5 by Circuit Judge John Atkins. Since it’s considered a nonviolent offense, Hoskins will be eligible to see a parole board after serving 15 percent of her sentence.

“I think the jury did a wonderful job of paying attention to all of the evidence,” Gigandet said. “I think they carried out their duty well and weighed all of the evidence and factors that were given to them.”

While Gigandet is satisfied with the outcome, she said one of the hardest things to accept was how preventable it was.

“It’s not a win for anybody because we’re still left with a child who cannot see out of the left eye,” she said. “This did not have to happen. This should not have happened. The child deserved better.”