A severely retarded teen-ager, who died Saturday after a seizure at Great Oaks Center in Silver Spring, had a physician's vinyl examination glove lodged in his larynx, Maryland State Police said yesterday.
Doctors at Holy Cross Hospital, where 18-year-old Gilbert Amyot was taken after resuscitation efforts failed at the state-owned institution, said they found the glove during a surgical procedure to clear his windpipe.
The state medical examiner's office in Baltimore is performing an autopsy. Officials there said it could take 10 days to determine the cause of death.
"There's no mystery" about how a patient could find such a glove, according to Detective Ernest Walker of the state police College Park barracks.
"The aides used them to change the patients, the cleaning staff used them, the doctors, the nurses -- practically everybody in the place had access" to the disposable plastic gloves, Walker said.
Great Oaks, the state's second-largest institution for the mentally retarded, was the focus of an investigation last fall. The center's director and deputy director were relieved of their duties there after the review found a "significant . . . management problem." The review found no evidence of management improprieties.
Lynn Doyle of the Maryland Health and Mental Hygiene Administration, which administers the hospital, said, "We don't know whether he ingested the glove at some (earlier) time -- and then during the seizure, when there was some vomiting, it came back up -- or whether he had just ingested it, and that was the cause of the seizure."
"And unfortunately, the medical examiner said he's not even sure he'll be able to determine when" Amyot swallowed the glove, Doyle added.
The layrnx, which includes the voice box at the base of the throat, is a muscular organ below the tongue and controlling the opening of the windpipe. Part of the cartilage attached to the larynx forms the "Adam's apple" in the lower throat.
Doyle said Amyot was classified as "profoundly retarded" and had an IQ of about 10. He had been a patient since 1975.
"It's not uncommon for clients in that classification to have oral fixations . . . to try to put anything they can get their hands on in their mouths," Doyle said.
"Of course, we try to take precautions" to keep dangerous objects out of reach, "and of course we're concerned that the glove was found in his larynx."
Although Doyle said state confidentiality regulations prohibited her from confirming whether Amyot was receiving medication at the time of his death, she said that he had been clinically treated for seizures in the past.
Doyle said the mental health administration was conducting an internal probe independent of the investigation by state police.