Thu | Oct 21, 2021

Last cry! - Family devastated as help came late for COVID patient

Published:Saturday | March 6, 2021 | 12:21 AMJonielle Daley/Staff Reporter
Janet Riley, mother of Shenay Spencer, weeps at the death of her daughter during an interview in Maverley, St Andrew yesterday.
From left: Tosheba Welsh, Janet Riley and Andrea Richards grieve the loss of Shenay Spencer during an interview with The Gleaner yesterday at their home in Maverley, St Andrew.

“Need help. Get help. My body is weak. My battery is dead.” Those were the piercing, desperate appeals of 32-year-old Shenay Spencer, in the early hours of Tuesday, March 2, to her relatives. Texting her loved ones was the last resort for the...

“Need help. Get help. My body is weak. My battery is dead.”

Those were the piercing, desperate appeals of 32-year-old Shenay Spencer, in the early hours of Tuesday, March 2, to her relatives.

Texting her loved ones was the last resort for the trained nurse who was anxiously seeking attention from health personnel at the Kingston Public Hospital where she was hospitalised.

There was more.

“The nurse said dem can’t get them from the switchboard up here, so you have to try call them and tell dem fi send somebody fi turn on the machine, please.”

WATCH: Shenay Spencer's last cry

Spencer, who was battling COVID-19, was pronounced dead about 7:15 a.m. on Wednesday, March 3.

Help eventually came but now a distraught family is left to eternally ponder whether Spencer could have been alive today had she got prompt attention.

Tosheba Richards said around 2:40 a.m. Tuesday, she was awakened by a call from her sister.

The call followed several voice notes and messages to Spencer’s significant other as well, asking them to reach out to the intensive care unit (ICU) at the KPH to restart an oxygen therapy machine she was on.

It’s alleged that power went at the country’s main trauma centre affecting critical health equipment.

Winsome Callum, director of corporate communications at Jamaica Public Service, said the light and power company was checking whether there was a power outage in the area around 2 a.m.

“I am not aware of a power outage on JPS’ system affecting KPH at the time,” she said yesterday evening.

Spencer reportedly went to the hospital on Saturday and was admitted to the 3b isolation ward, bed 12, Richards shared while reading a chain of messages from her big sister.

Responding hastily to the now dying appeals, Richards said she called the hospital’s information desk asking someone to attend to her sister.

After checking up, Spencer told her that someone came to her assistance, but by evening, she was struggling to breathe, explaining to her other sister Andrea Welsh that the oxygen therapy machine she was on was not working properly.

Grave concern for youngest sibling

The sobs and laments of disappointment and disbelief were briefly interrupted by the youngest sibling, Joslyn David, during an interview with The Gleaner on Friday.

“Mi can’t sit down and listen to uno talk bout this,” he said, storming out of the room where his mother and sisters were, throwing himself through a nearby gate that led to the rear of the family house.

Welsh, the eldest of the four, said she was “gravely” concerned about her baby brother.

“He is a workaholic, him don’t leff work and from him hear and come home, him can’t go to work. Every word come out of him mouth is tears,” she shared.

Janet Riley last spoke with her daughter on Monday, a situation engineered by her other children who were fearful of what constant updates could do to their mother who is battling hypertension and heart issues.

“She said, “Mommy, a di first mi bawl fi you suh’,” recalled a weeping Riley of the last conversation she had with Spencer.

“She was the best,” said the 68-year-old, paying respect to her breadwinner.

Spencer was a palliative care nurse at the Jamaica Cancer Society.

Since her passing, the family said they have been bombarded with phone calls, even from abroad, of persons expressing deep anguish and disbelief.

The grieving relatives said they were “stumped” by the fact that the hospital did not call to inform them of her passing.

They said it was her partner who went to visit and was met with the news.

They feel as though the issue was not handled with any sense of humanity and respect.

KPH Senior Medical Officer, Dr Natalie Whylie, said she was not aware of the issue when The Gleaner contacted her for a response on Friday.

“An investigation is going to be initiated into the concerns regarding the care of this patient at KPH,” she said, noting that such a probe could take 24 to 48 hours.

Shenay Spencer’s demise is the second death in one week that has left family members contending hospital negligence.

Last Friday, 17-year-old Jalisa McGowan was pronounced dead at the Andrews Memorial Hospital after her parents rushed her from the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) where it’s alleged that doctors and nurses ignored appeals to give the asthmatic girl oxygen

UHWI’s spokesperson, Nordia Francis-Williams, said a report on the incident was submitted to the Ministry of Health & Wellness to which the administrators are awaiting a response.