Kwiatkowski’s personality helped him dupe one employer after another, but he also was able to hide his past problems because of the poor communication and fractured vetting process at many hospitals. When patients visit hospitals these days, the employee in scrubs may be a beloved veteran with roots in the community. Or he or she could be a little-known agency worker on a three-month contract who just flew in from out of state, with a background easy to hide because nobody took the time — or showed an inclination — to investigate.
Lost Michigan dream
In David Kwiatkowski’s early life, there were few signs of the troubles to come.
He grew up in Canton, Mich., a suburban, middle-class township outside Detroit where many auto workers in the 1970s bought their first homes. His family stood out as the one with four athletic boys. His father, a supervisor for an auto plant, coached various teams, and his mother was an enthusiastic fan. Kwiatkowski, the second oldest, came off to his neighbors as a normal, somewhat rowdy kid who loved the Detroit Tigers. While his oldest brother was a pitcher for Canton High, Kwiatkowski was a catcher. He later went to Madonna University, a Catholic commuter school in nearby Livonia.
Along the way, he gained a reputation for exaggerated story-telling, which many friends just saw as a sign of insecurity. While playing baseball at Madonna for two years, he entertained teammates with fanciful stories about how he could talk any cop out of giving him a traffic ticket. It was clear to them that he saw himself as someone who could charm his way out of trouble.
He also talked about becoming a “big-time doctor,” pursuing a career in the health care field that was the region’s top employer with the car industry in decline. As with much of his bluster about himself, there was an element of truth to it. He spent seven years at Madonna finishing a bachelor’s degree in allied health administration, which he earned in 2005. While at Madonna, he also completed a two-year program in 2003 at a local hospital to become a certified radiologic technologist.
“He was always trying to make himself sound cooler than he was,” said Matt Rigley, an electrician who, like Kwiatkowski, was a catcher at Madonna.
By the time he was in his mid-20s, there were warning signs on two levels. It appeared he was starting to struggle with Crohn’s disease. And he was running into trouble with police over issues related to alcohol and drugs.
One winter night in 2005, he approached the front counter of the Canton police station and reported the alleged theft of his pills, including prednisone, an anti-inflammatory drug often used for Crohn’s patients, and Vicodin, a narcotic painkiller, from an apartment, a police report said. He said he didn’t want an investigation, but “just needed a report filed so he could get a new prescription.”
Three months later, Kwiatkowski would have an encounter with the same police department, though not at his initiative. After observing a 2004 gray Saab swerving and speeding shortly after midnight on April 15, 2005, police pulled over the driver. Kwiatkowski, according to the police report, told the officers, “I was on the cellphone, that’s why I was swerving.”
He failed a breathalyzer test, registering a blood-alcohol level of .114, well over the legal limit of .08.
He also struggled with the field sobriety test. When asked if he had any medical issues influencing his balance, Kwiatkowski told the officer he had Crohn’s disease, but indicated it would not affect his ability to walk. But he strayed when trying to keep to a straight line and spent a night in a lockup. Two months later, he pleaded guilty to operating while intoxicated, paid a $1,070 fine, and served six months of probation.
If he had any fears that this guilty plea would affect his work life, they would prove unfounded.
In the months to come, after getting his college diploma, Kwiatkowski got his first significant job at Harper University Hospital in Detroit and seemed destined to achieve what many of his hometown classmates considered the good life. He made a decent living and settled down near family, buying a modest 1,000-square-foot, Cape-style house for $165,000 in nearby Westland. He began dating — and later became engaged to — a nurse he met on the job. He also got a dog named Pudge, named after the former Tigers catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.
At the time he started the job in October 2005, his resume already listed jobs at four local hospitals. He had also received his certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, a must-have credential at most hospitals. It requires, among other things, passing a standardized test and answering questions about criminal charges, including drunk driving. He never updated his initial denial of a criminal record.Continued...