When Catherine McCann started pulling on her ear at the Lutheran Home in September 2012, it seemed apparent something was wrong with the elderly Alzheimer's patient, who was unable to speak or care for herself. What was ailing the nonagenarian turned out to be more horrifying than her family could have imagined, and now a judge has ordered the home to pay them $250,000 for wrongful death and for violating the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, the Daily Herald reports. After a maggot was spotted moving in McCann's ear on Sept. 16, 2012, by a nursing home worker, she was whisked to a local hospital. There, her daughter watched as "the larvae of flies crawled out of her mother's left ear" as 57 maggots were removed, Chicago Tribune originally reported; it's thought that a fly landed in her ear and laid the eggs.
McCann had been diagnosed with wax buildup a little over a week before the maggots were discovered and was prescribed eardrops, CBS News noted; Lutheran says she had received drops the night before her hospital visit. "How can you put drops of medicine in an ear that has 57 maggots?" the family's lawyer asked CBS in a November 2012 interview. After the maggots were taken out, the Herald notes, McCann lost her appetite, started humming, and died a few months later at another nursing home her family had moved her to. "The maggot infestation in her left ear created this geriatric cascade that led to her death," their attorney notes to the Herald. The nursing home's administrator told the Tribune in 2012 what happened to McCann was simply "a freak occurrence that has nothing to do with the care she was provided." (An Indian man reportedly had 50 maggots taken out of his nose and sinuses.)