CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Jonathan was 8 years old when he realized he was different than other children.
“It’s because of what happened to me when I was born, and it is never going to be any different. I realized at that age that this is how my life is going to be,” he said.
Jonathan has a condition called hydrocephalus, which means excess spinal fluid builds up in his brain. He developed hydrocephalus at birth when doctors crushed the fourth ventricle of his brain with forceps, according to documents filed in Chesapeake Circuit Court.
“[My mother] said I got my head crushed from forceps when I was born because I got stuck, and the doctor pulled me out and placed the forceps incorrectly,” Jonathan said.
Jonathan’s mother, Terri, knew something was wrong with her son early on when she noticed his head was growing at an abnormal rate. A doctor diagnosed Jonathan with hydrocephalus when he was 10 months old, and surgeons placed a shunt in his head to move the spinal fluid from his brain to his stomach.
Jonathan is now 33 years old and has had seven shunts surgically installed.
“We are guessing I will have at least four more major brain surgeries because shunts generally last from seven to 10 years,” he said.
Terri was a patient of obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Javaid Perwaiz when Jonathan was born in June 1987. She met him as a registered nurse at Portsmouth General Hospital and worked with him for two years. During her time as a patient and colleague, Terri didn’t know that Perwaiz lost his surgical privileges at Maryview Hospital in 1982 after performing unnecessary hysterectomies on women. She also wasn’t aware that the Virginia Board of Medicine investigated Perwaiz in 1984 based on a complaint made by Maryview Hospital.
“I had no idea,” Terri said. “In fact, if I would have known, I would have never let him care for me through my pregnancy or delivery.”
10 On Your Side investigators met Jonathan and Terri in March 2020 — about four months after the U.S. Department of Justice charged Perwaiz with performing unnecessary procedures and surgeries on patients as part of a health insurance fraud scheme. A federal jury convicted Perwaiz of the scheme in November 2020, including charges that involved pregnant patients and babies.
10 On Your Side investigators contacted Terri and Jonathan after we discovered a lawsuit the mother filed against Perwaiz, his medical practice partner, and her son’s pediatrician in 1993. Jonathan and Terri agreed to speak with our investigators about their experiences but asked us not to disclose their last names.
The lawsuit was eventually dismissed, but Jonathan’s disability remains a constant reminder of his birth. As a child, family jokingly called Jonathan a “bubble boy” because his shunt made him prone to dangerous infections. He didn’t learn to tie his shoes until he was 10 years old or to bathe himself until he was a teenager.
“My job was to stay alive. My job was to not get your head hit, don’t let anyone get near you, wash your hands constantly. If you get sick you’re going to die from a shunt infection. So, I’ve lived with fear my entire life,” Jonathan said.
Now, Jonathan has a son of his own. Being a father is an experience he never thought he’d have because of his disability. His family is his life, but Jonathan is acutely aware of the strain his “physical shortcomings” put on his wife. He can’t drive, suffers from seizures, struggles with his memory, and has issues with his fine motor skills.
“It’s just real difficult for her. It’s real difficult for everyone, because I know as my son gets older there are certain things that I’m not going to be able to teach,” he said.
Another mother, Michala Rudolph, said her daughter also suffers from hydrocephalus. Perwaiz did not deliver Rudolph’s daughter, but was her obstetrician throughout her pregnancy. She believes Perwaiz’ lack of medical care during her pregnancy led to her daughter’s health complications. She currently has an attorney and is exploring her legal options.
Rudolph started seeing Perwaiz when she became pregnant in 2019. She experienced severe bleeding three times throughout the pregnancy, but said Perwaiz assured her that her condition was normal and did not refer her to a specialist. Her daughter, Dallas, was born prematurely at 22 weeks old and has been diagnosed several health complications, including hydrocephalus, as a result.
“It wasn’t normal at all for me bleeding that way, but like I said, I was putting my trust into him and I heard so many good things about him,” Rudolph said.
During Perwaiz’ federal trial, prosecutors told the jury that Perwaiz routinely changed his pregnant patients’ estimated due dates and induced them before they were 39 weeks into their pregnancies, which is against the medical standard of care. Babies are not fully developed until the 39-week mark, and inducing early without medical necessity can put mother and child in danger.
Federal prosecutor Elizabeth Yusi said that Perwaiz changed the estimated due dates of his pregnant patients so that he could schedule their deliveries on days he was already working at the hospital and ensure that he would get paid for the births.
“He wouldn’t change the due date until maybe a month before or a couple of weeks before the actual due date,” Yusi said. “He would write in with his very distinctive handwriting the new due date that had no basis in any of the ultrasounds or basis from the last menstrual period or any of the medically accepted ways to determine when a baby is 40 weeks and healthy and able to be born.”
Law enforcement analyzed more than 100 deliveries that Perwaiz performed on Medicaid patients in 2019. They found that 80 of those women were induced before the 39-week mark, and more than 30 of those inductions had no medical justification, Yusi said.
A Chesapeake Regional Medical Center neonatal intensive care nurse who testified in his criminal trial told the jury that babies delivered by Perwaiz often needed special care. Hospital staff called those children “Perwaiz specials.”
Asia Wiggins said Perwaiz induced her early when she had her son in April 2019.
“I really think he rushed the delivery. I really do. I don’t think my baby was ready to come out,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins began seeing Perwaiz when she was a teenager and chose him to be her obstetrician when she became pregnant with her son in 2018. The pregnancy was normal, but a few weeks before she was supposed to give birth, Perwaiz unexpectedly changed Wiggin’s due date and scheduled her for an induction.
“He induced me for no reason to my knowledge. He never told me anything was wrong,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins’ son couldn’t breathe on his own when he was born, and he was put in an incubator in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. Eventually, nurses recommended that Wiggins switch her baby’s care to the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters. That’s where doctors diagnosed the baby with a nerve-related condition called Bell’s palsy, which caused the right side of his face to become paralyzed. Doctors told Wiggins that his condition may improve over time, but for the mother, it has been a long and treacherous waiting game to see how her child develops.
“The doctors at CHKD said it was because of the abrasions. He was chocked with the forceps. He had abrasions on his neck from the way he was delivered, so I know for a fact it was because of what [Perwaiz] done,” Wiggins said.
Perwaiz was convicted of performing unnecessary procedures and surgeries on women, but what was the motivation for his crimes? Prosecutors say money — and a lot of it. We’ll tell you about how much money Perwaiz made, and what he spent the cash on in Chapter 8 of “The Patients v. Perwaiz,” which is scheduled to air on March 25.
The U.S. Attorney’s office is accepting victim impact statements for consideration at Perwaiz’ sentencing from anyone who believes they were hurt by the OB-GYN’s criminal actions. To learn more about how to submit a victim impact statement, click here.