Emergency call reveals panic after comatose woman gave birth

New audio has emerged of the frantic call to emergency services as staff at a health care facility realised a comatose woman had given birth.

The five minutes of audio from the December 29 birth starts with a frantic nurse at the Hacienda HealthCare 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 says. 

An emergency responder asks how far along the mother was in her pregnancy. The nurse, still sounding stunned, says that nobody would know.

A 911 call has been released of nurses from the Hacienda HealthCare facility ringing emergency services after a comatose woman gave birth. Source: Getty Images (File pic)

“This is a complete surprise. We were not expecting this,” she says. 

The paramedic asks if anyone was doing CPR and described how to do proper compressions with two fingers in the centre of the baby’s chest. The nurse says workers are using a resuscitation bag. 

A few minutes later, the nurse expresses relief, saying “thank God” the baby is now breathing and crying. 

The woman and the baby boy have been recovering at a hospital. Their conditions have not been released.

The Hacienda HealthCare facility where a woman in a vegetative state gave birth in December. Source: AAP

The 29-year-old woman, who has been incapacitated since age three, 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 Bill Timmons 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 specialises in providing around-the-clock care for infants, children and young adults with developmental disabilities or who are “medically fragile.”

How did the entire pregnancy go unnoticed?

The notion that none of the woman’s caregivers knew she was pregnant has drawn scepticism. 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.  

Hacienda HealthCare CEO Bill Timmons has resigned after news of the birth emerged. Source: Hacienda HealthCare

Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix’s Dr C Kevin Huls said someone who’s fed through a tube everyday might not show dramatic changes such as a swollen stomach. 

While factors remain unknown, such as how far along she was, 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 foetus is consuming nutrients, Dr 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 mum’s nutrition,” Dr 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,” Dr 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 south-eastern Arizona, said in a statement through their attorney that they will care for the infant boy and have asked for privacy.