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Jail Doctors Made Man Impotent by Failing to Treat 6-Day Erection: Lawsuit

 Rodney Cotton, 50, wants to move to Atlanta near one of his four daughters.
Rodney Cotton, 50, wants to move to Atlanta near one of his four daughters.
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DNAinfo/Rosa Goldensohn

CIVIC CENTER — A jail inmate suffered a painful six-day erection that cost him his sexual virility after jail doctors failed to send him to the hospital for treatment, according to a lawsuit.

Rodney Cotton, who was in the Manhattan Detention Complex in 2011 for violating parole, had priapism — a painful, constant erection caused by his antidepressant medication — according to a lawsuit filed in August 2011 in State Supreme Court. 

Cotton, 51, was left alone and crying in his solitary cell without proper help for six days, he said. 

Contrary to standard practice, jail doctors did not send him to the hospital until he required surgery and was rendered impotent, the lawsuit said.

“I have to readjust my manhood,” Cotton told DNAinfo New York. “I have to readjust myself because I’m not even whole.”

The doctors worked for Corizon, the embattled for-profit company that runs health care in city jails and has been criticized by the state and advocates for providing inadequate care to inmates.

DNAinfo reported exclusively last week that the city recently decided not to renew Corizon's contract, which expires at the end of 2015.

In a statement, Corizon defended its care.

“While we cannot comment specifically on an individual’s course of treatment, as a physician-led company our goal is to provide skilled and compassionate care to each of our patients,” the company said.

Cotton went into Manhattan Detention Complex on June 21 on a parole violation after flipping over a cart at a halfway house where he was living, he said. He had been living there for a few months after spending two and a half years in Attica for illegally possessing Vicodin in 2008, he said.

Cotton had been at MDC for three weeks when the painful erection began, according to his lawyers. Extended, painful erections are a known, but uncommon, side-effect of Risperdal, a drug Cotton was using to treat depression.

After his erection would not go away for hours on July 4, 2011, Cotton asked to be taken to the jail clinic, but a guard initially told him it was not an emergency and he would have to wait until after the Independence Day holiday weekend, according to the lawsuit. 

In order to get seen, Cotton told the guard he had chest pains, he said. 

The first doctor he saw, Dr. Craig Metroka, gave him Tylenol and ice packs instead of sending him to the hospital, according to documents. The second, Dr. Landis Barnes, gave him the same treatment the next day, the lawsuit says.

Barnes is also being sued for telling another inmate to throw part of his severed finger in the garbage.

The doctors who saw Cotton later admitted in July 2014 depositions that priapism for four to six hours should be treated as an emergency.

Cotton, who sat in the clinic with ice packs for hours each day, was concerned he was not being properly treated at the time.

“I was angry. I was hurting ,” Cotton said.  “I didn’t know what was going on with my body so I was very scared.”

Cotton's mother and her pastor advocated on his behalf, calling the Department of Corrections to try and get him proper care. When a third doctor, Dr. Rasheeda Hall, saw him on July 8, she had him taken to Bellevue Hospital Center immediately, according to documents.

He arrived at the hospital after midnight on July 9, the lawsuit claims, and the erection persisted into that day. 

“'She said, 'Oh my God. I can’t believe Barnes let you go around like this all week,'" Cotton said. “She said, 'You're going out ASAP.'"

After six days of the continuous erection, Cotton underwent surgery to relieve the swelling. But it was too late to rescue his ability to maintain an erection.

After the surgery, Cotton was sent back to MDC with stitches that were supposed to be removed in seven to 10 days, according to court documents. Barnes told Cotton they would dissolve on their own, Cotton said.

But they were not self-dissolving, the lawsuit says. By the time they were removed Aug. 9, they had become embedded in the skin of his penis, according to court documents, and no anesthetic was used to remove them.

"Honestly, I wanted to choke Barnes," Cotton said. "Because he destroyed me."

Barnes did not respond to a request for comment. Metroka and Hall could not be reached for comment.

Cotton then served out the rest of his original two-and-a-half year sentence at an upstate prison, thinking surgery might help him when he got out. But because of the length of time his priapism was left untreated, the damage to his penis was too great for prosthetic interventions to help, his lawyer Marvin Fuhrman said.

Cotton fears his on-again, off-again relationship with his longtime girlfriend, Charlotte, will come to an end.

"I feel so inadequate in satisfying her needs physically that I can’t satisfy her needs mentally," he said. "She tries to make it work but I don’t know if it’s a front."

The city’s Health Department, which oversees jail health care, said they could not comment on Cotton’s case. The three doctors who worked on his case could not be reached for comment.

“The Health Department is committed to ensuring every patient in New York City’s jail system receives high-quality medical care, but we can’t comment on pending litigation,” spokesman Levi Fishman said in a statement.

Cotton said he now  hopes to move to Atlanta, to live with his 27-year-old daughter. His lawsuit will go to trial on July 6.

“I just, I’m ruined,” he said. “It’s time for me to just go to Atlanta and just fall back. Just fall back."