FAIRBORN, Ohio (WDTN)- UPDATED: We will likely never know how Bayleey Blanton got so sick so quickly, but her family fears their home contributed to her death.
On April 4, 2012 Bayleey Blanton was born a healthy baby, but two months after birth she started having seizures. Three separate times her family took her to Dayton Children’s Hospital. Mike Cummins was Bayleey’s grandfather.
Cummins told 2 NEWS Investigates, “They did get her to the point where the seizures stopped, we brought her home and in three days the poor child was.” He simply shook his head.
Bayleey and her mother were living in the basement of her grandparents’ home in Fairborn. Mike and Maureen Cummins were in the process of purchasing the home. They signed an agreement with the owner or vendor in April 2010.
Going in, the couple knew there were problems with the septic system. In fact their agreement states, “Vendor hereby agrees to be responsible for repairs required to the septic and drainage of the septic system as required by the local health department.”
What the Cummins didn’t know is how bad it would get. Mr. Cummins said, “It was terrible, the odor was so bad.”
They say they used fans to try to ventilate the house.
“Michael kept going to him saying we need something done here. We’re smelling this stink,” said Mrs. Cummins.
2 NEWS Investigates looked through the Greene County Combined Health District’s records for the Fairborn address. Inspectors made notes based on what they saw outside the home, not inside. They documented “standing sewage water on the ground.” Melissa Howell is the health commissioner.
“If you suspect at all that your system’s not working properly call the health district, call the installer, so they can come out and inspect it. It’s really not something a homeowner is necessarily educated to do on their own,” Howell told 2 NEWS Investigates.
There were fourteen inspections between March 2010 and the end of last year, none in 2012 when Bayleey was alive. The family told 2 NEWS Investigates there was little time that year to work with the health district since they were spending so much time at the hospital. They did, however, take pictures of what appeared to be sewage seeping into the basement.
Pam Elliot: Is it possible your inspector missed something?
Commissioner Howell: Our inspectors are pretty well trained. We have some of the best inspectors in the state here in Greene County and I don’t think anyone would dispute that.
I wouldn’t think so, no.
Bayleey’s third trip to Dayton Children’s was her last. The family shared with 2 NEWS Investigates some of her medical records. They reference more than twenty seizures a day and delayed developmental milestones. The hospital also acknowledges an error, a methadone overdose.
However, what’s most troubling to the family is the information they didn’t learn until the day before Bayleey died.
“All they said to us is we don’t know what is going on with Bayleey. She even has fecal bacteria in her system,” said Cummins.
Not until they heard about the fecal bacteria did the Cummins realize that their home might have been killing their granddaughter. The Virginia Department of Health reports sewer gases will decrease the oxygen concentration in the air, especially in basements. A lack of oxygen can cause seizures and difficulties breathing.
Bayleey’s death certificate lists the cause as respiratory failure, as well as hypoventilation, and malignant partial epilepsy of infancy. Her death was deemed natural, therefore, there was never an autopsy.
Ten months after Bayleey’s death a public health inspector did flag the property and determined no one should live there until problems are resolved. The family was already in the process of moving out.
As of March 23, the problems have not been resolved and the property remains vacant. 2 NEWS Investigates called the owner and he said he’d already talked with the health department and had no further comment. He then hung up.
Nick Gromicko, founder of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, told 2 NEWS Investigates sewer gas deaths are probably being misdiagnosed and without autopsies we can’t know for sure.
There is no formal investigation of Bayleey’s death. Montgomery County Coroner Kent Harshbarger told 2 NEWS Investigates he does not believe an autopsy would tell the family anymore than they already know. He said we are never going to know the source of the bacteria, but Dr. Harshbarger does not believe sewer gas is to blame because she was able to live for a period of time away from the home.
The hospital says it can’t address questions from 2 NEWS Investigates due to privacy laws, but would be willing to speak with the family further.
Vicki Giambrone, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships/Chief Business Development Officer at Dayton Children’s Hospital provided the following statement:
Our hearts go out to this family. At Dayton Children’s, we grieve for every family that loses a child.
While privacy laws and policies prevent Dayton Children’s from commenting on the specifics of this or any child’s care, we are proud of the exceptional care and pediatric expertise our professional staff provides to each child and their families. Our staff of pediatric experts are not only doctors, nurses and medical professionals but they are also moms, dads, sisters, aunts, uncles and grandparents, who care deeply about providing the highest level of patient care and safety for every child.
Our staff and experts use a family centered care model that includes parents as an active part of the care team. Together, the team shares all the information about a child’s care. If any parent has questions, concerns or issues, at any time, our staff works to have those answered or addressed at every stage of care.
About 18% of the houses in Greene County have some type of on-lot sewage treatment system, according to census data used by the health district. The health district inspects the systems, but it is the job of the property owner to make sure sewage is draining properly.