911 call shows shock at birth by woman in veg­e­ta­tive state

Ari­zona health fa­cil­ity, po­lice are try­ing to find iden­tity of her as­sailant

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY CLEVE R. WOOTSON JR. [email protected]­post.com

The un­named nurse screamed into the phone at the 911 dis­patcher: “The baby’s turn­ing blue! Baby’s turn­ing blue!” She urged the paramedics to come faster: “We’re not pre­pared for this.”

In most cases, a pa­tient go­ing into la­bor at a health-care fa­cil­ity in a room full of nurses would be a stress­ful but man­age­able sit­u­a­tion.

But the 29-year-old new mother at the cen­ter of the cri­sis un­fold­ing at Ha­cienda Health­Care a few days af­ter Christ­mas was a special — and es­pe­cially dan­ger­ous — case: She had been in a per­sis­tent veg­e­ta­tive state since 1992.

“One of the pa­tients just had a baby, and we had no idea she was preg­nant,” the nurse said.

The 911 call, re­leased by Phoenix po­lice and ob­tained by ABC af­fil­i­ate KNXV, pro­vides a win­dow into the birth that has rocked the city and the non­profit health-care or­ga­ni­za­tion that has taken care of the med­i­cally frag­ile for five decades.

The in­fant, who was de­liv­ered by a Ha­cienda Health­Care nurse, was suc­cess­fully re­sus­ci­tated and was be­ing cared for at a hos­pi­tal with his mother, who also re­mains in good health. The baby will be taken in by fam­ily, the news sta­tion re­ported.

Po­lice and the fa­cil­ity are try­ing to iden­tify the baby’s fa­ther — the per­son re­spon­si­ble for the sex­ual assault on a vul­ner­a­ble adult.

Ha­cienda “will ac­cept nothing less than a full ac­count­ing of this ab­so­lutely hor­ri­fy­ing sit­u­a­tion, an un­prece­dented case that has dev­as­tated ev­ery­one in­volved, from the vic­tim and her fam­ily to Ha­cienda staff at ev­ery level of our or­ga­ni­za­tion,” Gary Or­man, a mem­ber of Ha­cienda’s board of direc­tors, said in the state­ment.

That “full ac­count­ing” is on­go­ing. Ha­cienda’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Bill Tim­mons, re­signed. And po­lice have ob­tained war­rants to com­pel Ha­cienda’s male staff mem­bers to pro­vide DNA sam­ples.

Po­lice have not named a sus­pect or an­nounced an ar­rest.

The news has put the fa­cil­ity — started in the 1960s as Ha­cienda de los An­ge­les, or “the dwelling of the angels” — un­der a harsh spot­light.

Ari­zona Gov. Doug Ducey’s of­fice re­leased a state­ment say­ing the re­ports are “deeply trou­bling.” In ad­di­tion to work­ing with po­lice, state of­fi­cials are “reeval­u­at­ing the state’s con­tract and reg­u­la­tory author­ity as it re­lates to this fa­cil­ity and have been work­ing closely with state agen­cies to en­sure all nec­es­sary safety mea­sures are in place,” Pa­trick Ptak, a spokesman for Ducey (R), said in a state­ment.

The state’s De­part­ment of Eco­nomic Se­cu­rity dis­patched a team to con­duct health and safety checks at the fa­cil­ity, and the De­part­ment of Health Ser­vices has beefed up safety mea­sures: more staff, in­creased mon­i­tor­ing and stronger se­cu­rity.

That is not enough for some fam­i­lies.

Ka­rina Ce­sena, the mother of an­other Ha­cienda pa­tient, told Phoenix in­de­pen­dent news sta­tion KTVK that she is sleep­ing in her 22-year-old daugh­ter’s room un­til the as­sailant is found.

Ce­sena’s daugh­ter has a trau­matic brain in­jury that causes hun­dreds of seizures a day.

“I do not [know if my daugh­ter was vic­tim­ized], but I do ask her, and she can an­swer yes or no,” Ce­sena told the news sta­tion. “She is not able to walk or talk yet, but she does un­der­stand.”

About Ha­cienda Health­Care, Ce­sena said: “Trust has been bro­ken. Trust has def­i­nitely been bro­ken.”

The woman who gave birth had come to Ha­cienda when she was 2, af­ter nearly drown­ing. Cru­cial ques­tions about her care re­main unan­swered.

Chief among them: How could nurses pro­vid­ing round-the-clock med­i­cal care not no­tice that one of their pa­tients was preg­nant?

The sur­prise of the fa­cil­ity’s em­ploy­ees was ev­i­dent in the 911 call.

Near the end, an­other em­ployee walked up to the nurse on the phone with 911 dis­patch­ers and in­quired about the cri­sis.

“Who had a baby?” the woman asked the now-calmer nurse on the phone.

“Look,” was the re­ply. “There’s a baby right there!”

ROSS D. FRANKLIN/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The CEO of Ha­cienda Health­Care re­signed af­ter a woman who has been in a veg­e­ta­tive state since 1992 gave birth last month.

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