General — 06 December 2013 — by Kareem Clarke
Student, 12, died from head trauma, not tetanus shot

The officials of the Health Department are now “out of the woods” – so to speak – since the results of a postmortem on the body of Sabrina Almendarez, 12, who was found dead by her father last Friday morning, November 29, have freed them from responsibility for her death, since they seemingly disprove the Almendarez’s family’s initial suspicions about what killed her.

As we shared with our readers earlier this week, while the family did not know for certain, they had suspicions that Sabrina’s death might have been caused by a tetanus shot which she received from health officials at her school in Independence as part of an ongoing Ministry of Health program.

Yesterday, however, the results of the post-mortem confirmed a different and unforeseen cause of death. It determined that she died from a sports injury, not a tetanus shot.

Pathologist Dr. Hugh Sanchez found that there was “blunt trauma to the right forehead” as a consequence of a sports injury. The death certificate explained that she died of broncho-aspiration and noted cerebral edema and cerebral hemorrhage as complications which led to her death.

A press release sent today from her family’s attorney, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, stated that “…also uncovered during the examination are injuries to her kidney, spleen, liver and lungs, in which blood was also found.”

It added that “The doctor concluded that the possible cause of these injuries can be her active sporting career, as the child is known to be an avid football and softball player.”

Sabrina was a pitcher for her school’s softball team in Independence Village. Matura-Shepherd said that her family is now tracing any possible sport injury she may have gotten.

Today, in Belmopan, Amandala spoke with Matura-Shepherd, who explained to us the conclusions of Sabrina Almendarez’s autopsy. She stated: “Like the family said, they never knew what caused her death, and so, the post-mortem was important. The result of the post-mortem is rather alarming because what has revealed is that she died of bronchial aspiration. The doctor explained to us that what that means is that she had a trauma in her head. As a result of that trauma, her brain was bleeding, and had swollen.

“And as the brain got more swollen, and the blood filled the cavity of the skull, it pressed down on the rest of the organs in her head. That then went to her trachea, and as a result, of that, she suffocated. So, she lost her breath, but the real original cause of death is that injury on top of her head. That is the cause of her death.

“The secondary reasons which their other observations verified were that on the left side of her body, close to her lungs, spleen, liver and kidney, there is a massive injury. But the interesting thing is that the doctor and the family never saw any external injury, and we don’t know how to explain that. There was no visible sign; the father said that he never saw any injury to the head. She never complained other than the headaches. She never really complained about the injury to her side, so they [the family] are in total shock and disbelief. They themselves want to know what would have caused it.

“So, it has not been easy, as a matter of fact, just her dying wasn’t easy. Now, knowing the cause, it’s like they just keep questioning how and why. So, it has been really difficult for them.”

Matura Shepherd said that the family, who has been devastated by the news, will now have to work with police to find out how the internal injury was received. She said, “Although they [the family] never knew what caused her death, one of the things that the death certificate says is that it is possibly because of a sports injury which would have happened over a little bit of time and went unnoticed, and thus the grave results. The next step is to cooperate with the police, and they themselves will be asking questions from the school. There may have been practice sessions, there might have been altercations, and there might be many things that we don’t know that may have caused the injury that you just leave unmentioned. This is a 12-year-old girl; she is an athletic person; she horse-plays a lot, she has friends and she’s very much involved in physical activities. She is used to falling down, being tough and rough. She may have sustained an injury and did not make much of it. So, this is a severe bleeding of the brain that’s what happened; how fast or how slow it happens that is what we are looking at, and what she might have done in the past week or two.”

She pointed out that the theory that she might have died as a result of a tetanus shot did not originate from the family, and although she had gotten a tetanus shot, the doctor has not shown them anything that would suggest that it is related to her death.

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