Panicking staff members at a long-term care facility scrambled to save a baby born to an Arizona woman in a vegetative state amid their shock to learn she was pregnant, according to dramatic 911 audio released Friday.
The five minutes of audio from the Dec. 29 birth starts with a frantic nurse at the Phoenix facility yelling, “The baby’s turning blue! The baby’s turning blue!”
“One of our patients just had a baby, and we had no idea she was pregnant,” the nurse said.
An emergency responder asked how far along the mother was in her pregnancy. The nurse, still sounding stunned, said that nobody would know.
“This is a complete surprise. We were not expecting this,” she said.
The paramedic asked if anyone was doing CPR and described how to do proper compressions with two fingers in the center of the baby’s chest. The nurse said workers were using a resuscitation bag.
A few minutes later, the nurse expressed relief, saying “thank God” the baby was now breathing and crying.
The woman and the baby boy have been recovering at a hospital. Their conditions have not been released.
The 29-year-old woman, who has been incapacitated since age 3, was sexually assaulted, police say, and they are trying to track down the assailant. Investigators are collecting DNA from the facility’s male employees and anyone else who may have had contact with her.
The revelation that a woman in a vegetative state was raped inside a care facility has horrified advocates for people with disabilities and the community at large. The CEO of Hacienda HealthCare resigned this week as the provider announced new safety measures, including more than one staff member being present during patient interactions and more scrutiny of visitors.
The facility specializes in providing around-the-clock care for infants, children and young adults with developmental disabilities or who are “medically fragile.”
The notion that none of the woman’s caregivers knew she was pregnant has drawn skepticism. But medical experts say it’s possible she displayed no outward signs that workers would have noticed, especially by those who don’t work with pregnant patients.
While factors remain unknown, such as how far along she was, someone who is fed the same amount from a tube every day might not show any dramatic changes, like a swollen belly, said Dr. C. Kevin Huls, a clinical assistant professor and maternal-fetal medicine fellowship director at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix.
She is described in a medical report as having tubes to feed her and help her breathe. The mother could actually lose weight in other places like her face or arms if a fetus is consuming nutrients, Huls added.
“A good way to understand it is that really, the baby’s going to continue to grow even at the expense of the mom’s nutrition,” Huls said. “So, her weight may not change because she’s not taking in additional calories. There may be changes to her body that are going to go undetected in a chronic care condition or at a facility like this.”
It also remains unclear if anyone had noticed if the woman had stopped menstruating.
Dr. Laura Mercer, a clinical assistant professor and OB-GYN clerkship director at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix, said documenting a menstrual cycle is as important as recording other vital signs and bodily functions. The absence of a menstrual period for three months “should prompt a medical evaluation,” Mercer said in an email.
The woman’s mother, who is her legal guardian, is required under state law to submit an annual report that includes results of a physical, according to Maricopa County Superior Court documents. A doctor examined the woman on April 16 and found “no change” in her health during an external exam.
Her family, who are members of the San Carlos Apache tribe in southeastern Arizona, said in a statement through their attorney that they will care for the infant boy and have asked for privacy.