Family of Woman in Vegetative State Devastated by Alleged Abuse, Vows Baby Will Be 'Well Cared For'
A 29-year-old Native American woman gave birth to a baby boy while at Hacienda Healthcare in Phoenix on Dec. 29, to the shock of many, given the woman has been in a vegetative state for over a decade.
Loved ones of an Arizona woman who was impregnated and gave birth while in a vegetative state at a nursing facility were devastated to learn of the alleged abuse she suffered, their lawyer said.
“The family obviously is outraged, traumatized and in shock by the abuse and neglect of their daughter at Hacienda Healthcare," attorney John Micheaels said in a statement Tuesday.
The woman went into labor at the Phoenix facility on Dec. 29. But she has been in a vegetative state since she suffered a near-drowning more than 14 years ago. She requires around-the-clock care and was “in a completely vulnerable state while a resident and patient at Hacienda Healthcare,” Micheaels said.
The woman’s family “is not emotionally ready to make a public statement” about the case, but noted through Micheaels that “the baby boy has been born into a loving family and will be well cared for."
Though the woman has not been named, authorities said she is Native American and 29 years old.
The San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona confirmed on Tuesday she is a member.
“On behalf of the Tribe, I am deeply shocked and horrified at the treatment of one of our member,” Chairman of the Tribe Terry Rambler said in a statement. “When you have a loved one committed to palliative care, when they are most vulnerable and dependent upon others, you trust their caretakers. Sadly, one of her caretakers was not to be trusted and took advantage of her.
“It is my hope that justice will be served,” Rambler added.
The incident is being investigated as a possible sex abuse case, and on Tuesday Phoenix Police apparently served a search warrant to take DNA samples from men who work at the facility.
“As a company, we welcome this development in the ongoing police investigation,” Hacienda Healthcare said in a statement obtained by KPHO-TV. “We had consulted attorneys to determine whether it would be legal for our company to compel our employees to undergo DNA testing conducted through Hacienda or for Hacienda to conduct voluntary genetic testing of staffers. We were told it would be a violation of federal law in either instance.
“Hacienda stands committed to doing everything in our power to bring this police investigation to a quick conclusion. We will continue to cooperate with Phoenix Police and all other investigative agencies to uncover the facts in this deeply disturbing, but unprecedented situation,” the statement said.
Amid the investigation into the woman’s case, allegations of another incident of abuse were reported, as an unnamed woman whom KPHO-TV identified as a former manager at Hacienda told the television station about an incident in 1988.
The woman recalled being in a meeting when it was brought up that female nurses had stood around a nonverbal male patient’s bed talking inappropriately about his genitalia.
“The poor guy was just laying [sic] there. He couldn’t say anything. He couldn’t communicate, he couldn’t defend himself,” she said.
The woman said that no one spoke out because they were afraid of losing their jobs.
Hacienda Healthcare did not respond to InsideEdition.com’s request for comment on the alleged incident.
On Monday, the facility’s long-time chief executive, Bill Timmons, submitted his resignation, which was unanimously accepted by its board of directors.
Timmons served as the president and chief executive officer of Hacienda HealthCare for more than 28 years, and in 2017 he was recognized for his role in establishing “vital programs to fulfill unmet community needs.”
“His mantra has always been ‘Perfection is our goal; Excellence will be tolerated,’” read his biography on Hacienda’s website, which has since been removed.
Attempts made by InsideEdition.com to reach Timmons for comment were unsuccessful.
Authorities have also added more security at the facility in light of the December incident.
“They have now monitors in the hallways checking everybody's rooms making sure there's somebody that shouldn't be in the room shouldn’t be in there, now they're giving out badges,” said Angela Gomez, whose son who suffers from muscular dystrophy occupies one of the 58 beds at the facility.
But the increase in personnel has done little to assuage the fears of some who still have loved ones living at Hacienda.
“I’m concerned that what occurred with this woman could very well occur with my son,” she told KPHO-TV.
Peter King, who once considered admitting his daughter at Hacienda, told KPHO-TV he never felt comfortable with having her there, and said the recent news was confirmation that his gut was right.
“I never expected something that devastating to happen but, however, I just wasn't surprised,” King said.
King’s daughter, Terri King, was 13 when she was infected with West Nile virus more than a decade ago. Complications from the disease left he with severe brain damage and bedridden.
Terri’s family was advised to place her at Hacienda, but they said a visiting doctor confirmed to them that their concerns were justified.
"I looked at him in the eye, and I got that feeling like he was saying yeah I'm not too fond of this place either, and he was just a visiting doctor. That's when he said, 'Why don't we try and get her to your home?'" King said.
It is believed the woman who gave birth in December may have been sexually assaulted several times, according to reports. Authorities at Hacienda were reportedly unaware she was pregnant until she was in labor.
“Once the woman’s moaning caught the attention of hospital workers, she was already giving birth,” said Dr. Nita Landry, a board-certified OB/GYN who specializes in promoting safe sexual practices, healthy pregnancies and disease prevention.
Landry, who serves as a co-host on “The Doctors,” noted that the woman would have gone her entire pregnancy without vital and necessary prenatal care.
“Prenatal care is an important part of a healthy pregnancy,” she said. “For example, prenatal care allows doctors to monitor your iron levels to avoid anemia; detect exposure or immunity to infections like measles and chickenpox; test for genetic and developmental fetal abnormalities; ensure that patients have not been exposed to sexually transmitted infections; and track your baby’s growth.
“This was definitely a high-risk pregnancy,” Landry continued. “Without proper intense monitoring, the woman and her baby were put in a very risky situation.”
It was unclear how long the woman was in labor before authorities realized she was giving birth.
"Unless you are very overweight, most women will show visible signs of pregnancy by the third trimester, so it is surprising to me that her caregivers did not realize her state,” Landry said.
Though a woman in a vegetative state would still have a uterus that contracts, she would not be able to push and that could potentially lengthen labor.
“She could have been in active labor for a prolonged period of time, which could have resulted in adverse outcomes for mom and/or baby — for example, this could have resulted in infection, trauma or even death to the baby,” Landry said.
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