ST. THOMAS — Two St. Thomas attorneys are representing a St. Thomas woman and her newborn son after she fell into a vegetative state after giving birth in January at Schneider Hospital.
Superior Court Judge Debra Watlington has appointed Julita de Leon to represent the mother and child, while Julie Evert has been retained by de Leon and the grandmother of the infant to prepare legal action over the pair’s treatment at Schneider.
Court records indicate that the birth mother, Angie Zue Brooks, is the wife of former VIPD officer Francis Brooks, who was convicted in 2011 in federal court of racketeering and extortion. He is serving a sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
According to court records, Angie Zue Brooks was insured at the time of her son’s birth “under a Cigna Insurance family plan with Francis Brooks as the primary insured.”
A petition for guardianship says “counsel has been informed that baby will not be insured under the Cigna policy” and that the Virgin Islands Division of Personnel/Government Insurance Division told de Leon “that only a court order will get them to put baby on the insurance.”
Suffered cardiac arrest
Evert says Angie Zue Brooks went to the hospital to give birth and “she came in saying ‘I have really high blood pressure.’ The records indicate the hospital knew that,” Evert said.
Evert says medical records suggest the woman’s placenta ruptured while in labor and that she suffered cardiac arrest.
De Leon says the baby also “suffered severe physical injuries during birth,” and Schneider Hospital doesn’t have the capability to determine the level of injury in the boy.
The baby “has not been evaluated for neurological damages,” she said, nor has the government let the insurance be used to fly the boy to a pediatric facility in the states that could perform tests to determine his level of impairment.
“The baby did not have oxygen for more than five minutes, yet SRMC has not seen fit to fly the baby off island for an evaluation,” Evert said Thursday. “It is my understanding the baby, who is more than six months old, has not met most of the developmental benchmarks. The baby has recently started physical therapy, but desperately needs to be evaluated by multiple pediatric specialists.”
Compounding the situation is the fact that the baby’s mother is in a vegetative state in Schneider. According to de Leon, Angie Zue Brooks’ mother — a resident of Colombia — flew in on an emergency visa and the court appointed her as emergency guardian for her daughter and newborn grandson.
According to de Leon, the hospital approached the grandmother “and has requested that she sign over Angie to Human Services so that Angie may be transferred” to the uncertified Sea View Nursing Home on St. Thomas.
De Leon and the grandmother “do not believe that Sea View is capable of providing Angie with the care that she so desperately needs,” according to the court petition.
“SRMC should be doing everything they can to assist. However, they appear to be doing quite the opposite,” Evert said. “They did not medevac the mother and infant after the mother almost bled to death and the infant was deprived of oxygen for more than five minutes, despite the fact that the mother has health insurance,” she said.
“The mother is now hooked up to a ventilator that breathes for her, she has tubes to feed her, and tubes to collect her waste. The mother has bed sores. The mother is 32 years old, and the limited records we have indicate that she is in a permanent vegetative state,” Evert said.
“SRMC is not a long-term care facility, and Sea View is not equipped to deal with the issues of my client. SRMC does not appear to have any plan about how to care for my client, except they have asked the grandmother, the Guardian to give up her legal rights,” Evert said.
Schneider Chief Executive Officer Bernard Wheatley said Thursday the hospital cannot comment about the case for legal reasons.
Evert said she has been retained by de Leon and the grandmother to initiate a malpractice action. She said it is understood that she will eventually pursue a wrongful death action against the hospital and others involved in the case. “Eventually she’s going to die” as a result of her condition, Evert said.
“Miami Children’s Hospital will see and examine the baby, but we need someone to travel with the grandmother to Miami. It would be wonderful if someone with a private jet who is flying to Miami could take the baby and the grandmother to Miami. The grandmother is from Columbia, and speaks no English. The grandmother has limited funds, and we need somewhere for the grandmother and infant to stay while they are in Miami,” Evert said.
“Imagine if this were your mother, relative or friend. We need help and we need someone in the government to step up and assist us with devising a long-term care plan for my client. The baby needs immediate care, which the Virgin Islands health system is not equipped to provide,” Evert said.