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Sister of deceased nursing home resident speaks out

A recent death of a local nursing home resident has shed some light on not only how vulnerable this population is, but how quickly a very contagious virus such as COVID-19 can spread and become deadly.
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 10:13 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - A recent death of a local nursing home resident has shed some light on not only how vulnerable this population is, but how quickly a very contagious virus such as COVID-19 can spread and become deadly.

The family of a deceased woman now speaking out is urging nursing homes to be more compassionate and vigilant when it comes to recognizing the symptoms of COVID-19.

Actions, they say, that could have saved their loved one’s life.

Bertha Reyes and her older sister Eva were very close. Eva being the oldest and Bertha the youngest, the sisters leaned on each other, trusting each other, especially when it came time to have difficult discussions.

A decision to have Eva live in a nursing home to help keep her safe from dangerous falls.

“They’re going to feed you, they’re going to shower you, they’re going to give you your medicines on time, and little did I know that she didn’t get the care that she required, that she needed.”

With her own hands full caring for an adult special needs daughter, Bertha knew and felt confident a nursing home was the right place for her beloved sister, the sisters promising to talk everyday by phone.

But after a few months into her sister’s stay at Regent Care Nursing Home, she heard a cough.

“A horrible cough, a non-stop cough, coughing and coughing and coughing.”

Constantly asking her sister to put a nurse on the phone….

“‘Hermana, I feel really, really sick,' and I said ok, call the nurse, push the button and call the nurse and put them on the phone for me… and I would tell them, ‘can you hear that cough? It’s a non-stop cough, can you contact her doctor and let him know how sick she is?”

The response always the same: they would document the cough, and let the doctor know. But after a couple of weeks, her sister’s cough only worsened.

Then, a call from a supervisor.

“Ms. Reyes, I’m calling to inform you that one of our employees tested positive for COVID-19, and was sent home. The good news is that she had no direct contact with your sister at all.”

Since she was told the employee had no contact with her sister, Bertha dismissed the call, instead taking the opportunity to tell the supervisor about her sister’s cough.

“My sister is so sick with that cough and nobody listens, I’ve been begging and calling, and telling you all to call the doctor to give her stronger medicine, whatever medicine you’re giving her it’s not helping her any.”

At that point, Bertha says she was told that five months prior, each resident was given a COVID test and a chest x-ray, her sister testing negative, and her lungs looking good.

But things took a turn for the worse.

It was the night before her sister’s death, and the two sisters spoke once again. This time, Eva telling her sister, blood was coming out when she coughed.

“And I said, ‘a lot of blood?” and she said, ‘unas rayitas,’ some stripes of blood.”

In a panic, the next morning, Bertha again called the supervisor saying her sister was in desperate need of medical help.

“And she said, ‘Ms. Reyes, we’re calling the doctor right now… we’re calling the doctor right now…‘”

An hour later, she learned her sister was taken to Doctors Hospital, not only for the persistent cough, but now, low levels of oxygen.

She tried calling her sister again but didn’t get a response.

“She didn’t answer me so they took her, they took her and she was there all day.”

Eva died that evening, Bertha never getting a chance to see or speak to her sister again.

In hearing Bertha’s story, the question many may be asking is why leave your sister at the nursing home when you clearly felt she needed medical attention?

Well the answer may surprise you.

Make sure to join KGNS News Friday evening for part two of this story, as we hear from the administrator at Regent Care and Laredo’s health authority as they both weigh in on how families can have their loved one checked out as well as how medical care is delivered to residents.

Copyright 2020 KGNS. All rights reserved.

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