By Jamaica Observer
JODIAN Fearon had hoped to celebrate her 24th birthday tomorrow, having just experienced a mother’s joy of giving birth, but she never knew she would’ve lost her own life.
The first-time mom died late Friday after a journey that saw her travelling across the Corporate Area and being denied access to health care.
Just days before her due date, the young mother started to experience distress and reported to the privately owned and operated Andrews Memorial Hospital, where she had been registered to deliver her baby.
Fearon, according to her sister and housemate Shanice Lloyd, arrived at the hospital last Thursday and was being prepared for delivery.
A few days prior, she had begun experiencing difficulty breathing as the baby was reportedly “putting pressure on her diaphragm”.
“We were there from five o’clock and about 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm she said she was ready to sleep. So she told the nurses that she was ready to sleep and we told her we were leaving. [Her doctor] said either late that night or early Friday he would take the baby through a vaginal extraction but he would induce labour. He said he couldn’t get to understand what was going on with her breathing unless the baby is out,” a distraught Lloyd told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
Lloyd said while getting ready for bed Fearon again complained about her breathing and conveying to the nurse that she was unable to breathe properly if lying on her back, and so she would have to sit up and sleep.
“She [nurse] start gwaan with a bag of excitement seh she have COVID-19. This other lady [in the room] got so scared she moved out with her child same time — her newborn baby. They asked us to step outside and they put Jodi in isolation. They start move people off the ward not knowing if she have COVID-19 or what. They started spreading rumours seh she have COVID-19,” said Lloyd, who described the ordeal as terribly embarrassing.
The woman said her sister’s doctor became livid with hospital staff and fought suggestions that she be removed from the institution to which she had reportedly paid over $50,000 in March for her delivery. By that time, her family had already been told to pack her things and remove them from the hospital, which is operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Lloyd said Fearon’s doctor placed a frantic call to University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), about 10 minutes away, but was told that they were unable to take the patient.
The reason was not clear, she said.
The doctor then called Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) to see if it could accommodate Fearon at its maternity arm — Victoria Jubilee Hospital — but was reportedly told that no bed was available.
Victoria Jubilee is the largest referral maternity hospital in the English-speaking Caribbean.
“The hospital CEO said she could stay the night, so we left at three o’clock [in the morning], and she was texting us. She was telling us that she hear the nurse dem a whisper and she said she feel really sad about all that was happening to her,” Lloyd told the Observer.
She said the family received a text message from Fearon at 5:00 am, indicating that her water had broke and that her doctor was there because he did not want the hospital to “kick her out” at any time.
Fearon also told her family that she would have to undergo a Caesarean section [C-section] for $230,000, which Lloyd said was paid by 9:00 am.
“So they said they were preparing the theatre and we gave her two hours and said she must have baby by now and good. So, on our way there, the doctor called to say they’re in an ambulance heading to Spanish Town [Hospital]. We said, ‘What the hell? How is she heading to Spanish Town?’ He said Andrews doesn’t want her to have the baby there. The anaesthesia people not giving her it. The nurse them not helping, saying them don’t want nuh COVID-19 people there.
“So we end up going to Spanish Town and hear she was in the ambulance from about after 10:00 am waiting on the room to be ready because the doctor had to just pop up on Spanish Town, because if he had called they probably wouldn’t take her,” a grief-stricken Lloyd explained.
She said when they arrived, Fearon — who was still in the ambulance on oxygen — had been reeling in pain. That lasted for a further 30 minutes as family members looked on helplessly.
It was not long before the group broke down in tears, Lloyd said.
“Everybody started crying. My aunt, me, my cousin, [and] her mother in New York, crying. It was just a sight. It was horrible. She said she just wanted the baby out because she can’t breathe. And we just a try keep the faith. She end up going in and she had the baby,” said Lloyd, who added that she had a vaginal delivery.
She mentioned that it was after Fearon’s delivery that another relative contacted the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) twice to report the incident.
The ministry, in turn, sent an “urgent” request to UHWI, the Observer was told, and Fearon was transferred there.
“She get into UHWI and they said that they can’t take the baby; the baby have to stay in Spanish Town. So we wait there for about four to five hours for the ambulance to come back and pick her up. We saw her when she was leaving because we drove behind the ambulance. When we got to UHWI they asked us some questions and we told them she couldn’t have COVID because she doesn’t leave the house. I don’t have it; my cousin doesn’t have it. Anyway, she came out and she waved to us and, boy, we never know seh a the last time we would see her,” Lloyd, who was raw with emotion, said.
She said she had spoken to Fearon after she had been admitted at the hospital and she seemed in a better frame of mind than she had been earlier that day.
“She sounded strong. She tell we fi carry Gatorade, and my cousin find the last Gatorade on UHWI because that was after 8:00 pm, and we carry it and some other juice and give the nurse to give her. We never got to see her, but she called us, and the last thing I said to her was that I love her and I don’t even know if she heard me or not,” Lloyd recalled.
At approximately 7:00 am on Saturday, Lloyd said that the hospital phoned to inform them that Fearon had passed.
“They said that she died of cardiac arrest and they tried everything they could. They also said me and my cousin couldn’t leave the house until a certain time because they had tested her for COVID-19. So they say we had to wait on the result. This morning they called us to tell us that she was negative. She didn’t have coronavirus. So she go through all of that and she never have it. The shame! She probably was crying when she was dying. You wouldn’t even understand how we feel. We are hurting. She left a beautiful baby girl, two days old,” the woman said.
“They need to change the system. Not because somebody has symptoms of COVID-19 that mean you must treat them like dog. It’s inhumane. We need justice for Jodian. She was a well-loved person,” Lloyd stated.
Yesterday, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said that an investigation has been launched into the circumstances that led to Fearon’s death.
In a message shared on social media, Dr Tufton said that no one should ever be denied access to health care. He also said that the results of the investigation will be made public once it is completed.
The health minister also announced that Fearon’s baby is in stable condition in hospital.
He said the Government will step forward and provide support for the child and counselling for family members.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness also issued a statement saying that his heart goes out to Fearon’s family and loved ones.
“Indeed, the entire nation is rightfully disturbed, alarmed, and saddened by the reports in the media so far,” Holness said, adding that the “Government will offer all necessary support to the family at this crucial time”.
He said the investigation will include “a review of all established protocols in and between the public and private health care systems to identify any possible general system weaknesses or specific operational breakdowns in the handling of this case”.
He said while the COVID-19 epidemic is placing additional strain on the island’s health resources and is increasingly complicating response systems, “as a people we must never allow the epidemic to cause us to lose sight of our humanity”.
Opposition spokesman on health Dr Morais Guy described the incident as unacceptable.
“The Jamaican people need to be assured that our hospitals can treat with their emergencies, even in the face of the coronavirus epidemic. For months, the minister of health and wellness has been saying we are ready. If we are ready, this situation should not have occurred,” said Dr Guy.
He urged the Government to immediately review the preparedness arrangements in all public health facilities to ensure that adequate space for isolation is in place and that the required personal protective equipment is available to all front line workers.