A vegetative woman who gave birth in a Phoenix nursing facility had been living there since she was a toddler, according to court documents.
The woman was left in a vegetative state 14 years ago after a near-drowning incident. She gave birth in late December to a healthy baby boy.
The patient was identified as a 29-year-old Native American woman.
Court records state the woman has been a resident of the facility for more than 27 years — nearly double the length of time that appeared in previous reports.
The court documents state that she has been under the care of Hacienda Healthcare since she was between the ages of 2 and 3, People magazine reported.
She also suffers from quadriplegia, a seizure disorder, and recurrent pneumonia, according to the documents.
“She lacks sufficient understanding and mental capacity to make decisions or give consents for her medical, placement or financial estate,” the court documents said.
The court documents were regarding the transferral of her guardianship from her biological father to her mother.
Phoenix Police Sgt. Tommy Thompson said the woman’s birth “took everyone [at the facility] by surprise.”
Thompson told the publication: “It’s my impression that the staff there had no clue that this lady was having a baby,” and she was “quite a ways along” before delivery.
Her last medical examination occurred more than eight months before her delivery, dated April 30, 2018.
“No changes,” said a handwritten note about if there were “any major changes in the ward’s physical and/or mental condition in the last year.”
Thompson also said the woman and her mother were in a hospital recovering following the birth.
“We’re tickled that the baby’s okay,” Thompson continued. “I think it’s a miracle. I hate to draw a miracle of such a horrific event, but the baby survived. Words can’t describe the thoughts we have, the questions that go through our mind about this.”
In another report, the child was “having issues” and “that was the nature of the call,” Thompson said. “That’s what started this.”
Police officers served a search warrant on Jan. 8 to Hacienda to get DNA samples from male staff members.
“As a company, we welcome this development in the ongoing police investigation,” the firm said in a statement.
Hacienda also said it had considered asking employees for DNA samples, but noted its attorneys advised against it, as it might violate federal law.
“Hacienda stands committed to doing everything in our power to bring this police investigation to a quick conclusion,” the company statement said. “We will continue to cooperate with Phoenix police and all other investigative agencies to uncover the facts in this deeply disturbing, but unprecedented situation.”
Investigators are now asking the public to help identify a suspect in the assault case. Anyone with information can call 602-534-2121.
What is a Vegetative State?
According to The Brain Foundation, “A vegetative state is when a person is awake but showing no signs of awareness.”
It means the person’s basic reflexes—such as blinking when hearing a loud noise—work. However, they don’t show any meaningful responses, such as following an object with their eyes.
The case “speaks to the fact that the patient actually had largely normally functioning organs,” Dr. Deborah Feldman, director for maternal-fetal medicine at Hartford HealthCare Medical Group, told CNN.
She added, “I can say that, biologically, her body actually was functioning very well in order to grow a full-term baby.”