Rachel was in the hospital and no one was allowed to come up to encourage her or advocate for her.
It was very easy for her to be told what to do as well as possibly scared into it.
“He is a 33-year-old widower and sole parent to their now four-year-old daughter.”
Our daughter Rachel Jennings, was 30 years old and tested positive for COVID-19 during the Delta variant on July 6, 2021. Her husband Fabio as well as their three-year-old daughter also tested positive. On July 13, 2021, Fabio was taken by ambulance to Baptist Hospital in Homestead, Florida due to difficulty breathing. He was given breathing treatments and then transported to South Miami Hospital. He was released within nine days on oxygen. He is fine now. Except that he is a 33-year-old widower and sole parent to their now four-year-old daughter.
Rachel was admitted to Baptist Hospital in Homestead, Florida on July 15, 2021, due to difficulty breathing. Rachel was a 30-year-old Caucasian female. She suffered distress during her delivery resulting in oxygen deprivation to her brain leaving her with mild ataxic cerebral palsy. Rachel had been through many years of therapy and was an otherwise normally functioning adult having completed high school, a college degree, been married, been employed at several places, assisted her husband in their Youth Ministry, was a speaker with First Priority going into school clubs to share, and was a Mother to a 3-year-old daughter.
Lack Of Care
After staying in the emergency room in a closed room with very little attendance to her situation for 24 hours, Rachel was finally placed in a private room. She was extremely proud to finally have her own room. She even took pictures and posted them on Facebook. She told me that the nurses fussed at her because she would not “breathe right” through the cannula and her O2 saturation dropped every time she got up to use the restroom. I reminded her that she needed to close her mouth. Rachel had always been a mouth breather. I also told her that she needed to tell the nurses that. At one point I even texted her what to say regarding being a mouth breather and having mild ataxic cerebral palsy. I was told by her nurse that she was being given the “whole cocktail.” Nevertheless, text messages and photos showed that she was not getting better and in fact was quite scared as to why.
Rachel called me on her phone with her own voice on the afternoon of July 19, 2021, frantically telling me “Mom, pray—they are about to intubate me.“ I seriously thought she was kidding because she was speaking and not choking out words or trying to gasp for breath. When I asked what for and she said “to be on a ventilator.” At that point, a male medical person took the phone and said “ma’am, we are going to have to intubate your daughter right now because this is moving too quickly. She has a serious pulmonary embolism and one lung has collapsed.” We spoke to various people about her condition, whether they be the charge nurse, someone representing the pulmonologist, or the nurse sitting in front of her ICU room many times. Rachel‘s condition seemed to fluctuate up and down and she was given many different medications but denied things that we asked for such as high doses of vitamin C as well as the medication President Trump had been given. We even asked about ECMO but I was told that she was “not sick enough“ for that.
We Fought For Her
“Lilly Irwin, respiratory therapist for life flight was literally on call waiting to get her with $50,000 being donated to cover the cost but the CMO of the hospital refused .”
Throughout her stay, Rachel endured chest tubes, catheterization, and a tube in her anal cavity which resulted in bleeding to the point of requiring two blood transfusions that we had to insist on. In addition, Rachel endured UTIs, infections that could only come from poor bedside hygiene, sepsis, and daily attempts to remove her intubation after reducing sedation resulting in her blood pressure rising, heart rate increasing, and putting her back into a fully sedated state. Because we kept her condition updated through social media, a friend of ours who was a respiratory therapist flying for life flight at Shands UF contacted us via her husband to express concern about Rachel not being given ECMO and to try to fly her up to Gainesville, Florida to receive it. We had many family members in the area there who would have been able to advocate for her. We were told that proning her would be good but we had to severely advocate for that to be attempted. Because we had an online account to check her vitals and medical records, we were able to see that her vitals were going down while being proned. When I called the nurse about this I expressed concern that she needed to be in a non-prone position since her vitals were going down. The nurse verbally refused and said that it would be three hours before all of the proned patients would be turned at the same time.
We began vehemently attempting to get Rachel flown via helicopter to Shands UF. Our friend, Lilly Irwin, respiratory therapist for life flight was literally on call waiting to get her with $50,000 being donated to cover the cost but the CMO of the hospital refused to allow Rachel to leave. He literally refused to sign paperwork for her to be flown for ECMO. Our church came 3 Sunday nights straight before Rachel’s death for a Prayer and Praise Rally in the hospital parking lot. We sang, prayed, and held up signs with loved ones' names in the hospital with COVID. One of these times an ICU nurse walked by as her shift was changing. My husband told her he was the Father of Rachel Jennings and asked how she was doing. She shook her head back and forth and began to cry. She gave him the impression that nothing could be done, like Rachel’s death was imminent.
“She specifically asked me if there was any way I could transfer my daughter out of that hospital.”
A few days before Rachel passed away and the hospital finally consented to a tracheostomy procedure to attempt to get Rachel off intubation. Very late on the evening of August 18, 2021, I received a call from Baptist hospital in Homestead, Florida. The lady identified herself as Solangel Herrera. She said that she worked at the hospital and her daughter worked in ICU. She specifically asked me if there was any way I could transfer my daughter out of that hospital. I immediately asked, “mother to mother, is there anything I need to know like is my daughter being neglected in treatment?” She assured me that my daughter was being taken care of but if there was any way I could get her transferred to another hospital I needed to do it. The very next day I was contacted by a nurse named Renee. This nurse said she was Rachel’s nurse and if we wanted to come up to say our goodbyes we needed to do it. We scrambled up there as quickly as we could, making sure to continue to advocate for the transfer to receive ECMO.
The Sign Of Death
Approximately two hours before my daughter died, the CMO finally signed the paperwork. Obviously, it was way too late. In addition, shortly beforehand, nurse Renee pressured the family to sign a DNR, stating that by law once Rachel coded, she would be required to do CPR and it would probably break Rachel’s ribs and put her through undue suffering. Fabio signed the paper. The CMO came up and after I begged, he told the nurse I could have 10 minutes in Rachel’s room with her. I was gowned up and masked up then allowed to enter the room with nurse Renee who told me I needed to let Rachel know she could “go.” I was shocked that she actually asked me “Did you tell her she can go?” right in the room with Rachel. So I told Rachel that I was supposed to tell her she could go and if she wanted to, she could go, but if she wasn’t ready, to fight like crazy because we were.
I anointed her forehead with olive oil, prayed for her, and sang to her. We took turns going up two at a time to see Rachel through the glass and speak to her through a special phone they put by her head. When our final family member arrived (my oldest son Ryan who had been working in Orlando) I went with him to see Rachel. There was small talk with nurse Renee. Another nurse brought a chair for me to sit on which I thought was odd since I didn’t ask for one. Then nurse Renee went into Rachel’s room. She walked beside Rachel and appeared to be adjusting/checking something on Rachel’s left shoulder/chest area. She then walked behind Rachel and Rachel’s vitals immediately completely plummeted to zero. She made a sign with her hand going across her throat to indicate Rachel’s death and then made a heart sign with her hands. Rachel was pronounced dead within 15 minutes of Ryan’s arrival. As my husband puts it, this was the perfect storm. Rachel was in the hospital and no one was allowed to come up to encourage her or advocate for her. It was very easy for her to be told what to do as well as possibly scared into it.