QUEEN CREEK, AZ — A Valley mother in need of surgery was left waiting in an emergency room for more than two days.
Jackie Forero said she languished in the Banner Ironwood ER, sleeping next to, and sharing a bathroom with, COVID patients due to the lack of available beds.
The ordeal speaks to the dwindling beds across Arizona, as a result of the COVID-19 surge that experts predict will only get worse after the holidays.
"I’ve done a lot of crying," said Jackie. "You end up getting frustrated because of the care that’s not happening, but then you also feel bad for the other people."
Jackie Forero never wanted to go to the ER. When her doctors saw photos of her swollen leg, following a recent broken ankle, they told her to head straight to the hospital.
"I have a bunch of blood clots," she said.
"It was four or five hours before they even got to see her to do the ultrasound," said Jorge Forero, Jackie's husband of 23 years. "Then when they did the ultrasound they realized, 'Yes, oh my God. There’s a big blood clot. We need to check your lungs.'" Then they did a CT scan of her lungs and that’s when they determined she needed surgery."
"They said they were going to transfer me Tuesday night. And I would have the surgery Wednesday morning," said Jackie.
Wednesday came and went without a transfer or any clear direction.
"There was no information. They kept saying they didn’t know where I was on the list," she said.
While the mother of four had tested negative for COVID-19, she was kept around patients pouring into the hospital with fevers and coughs.
"I’m sharing bathrooms with people who have COVID," said Jackie. "The beds are filled up. There’s not enough workers."
"She went long periods of time without even getting food or water from anybody at the place," said Jorge Forero, her husband.
"They kept not giving me food because they weren’t sure if I was getting surgery," said Jackie.
Jackie told ABC15 she begged for food and even enlisted her husband and primary care doctor to lobby the hospital.
"I hadn't eaten since Monday," she said.
"They finally gave her food Wednesday evening at 10:30," said Jorge.
Jackie told her husband she was not the only patient in the ER who felt neglected.
"One elderly patient...checked himself out against doctors recommendations...to go get food," said Jorge. "He said I’m going to pass out if I don’t eat."
"There’s just not the capacity, personnel-wise, to handle it," said Will Humble,
Former Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble says Arizona's current COVID surge is changing the standards of care.
"Those [non-life threatening] are the types of people that aren’t able to get the care, and will continue to get pushed off as we press into the last part of December and January," said Humble.
After a call from her doctor about the urgent importance of surgery, Jackie was transferred Thursday evening, more than 48 hours after being admitted.
"They are just overwhelmed," she said.
She hopes others are able to learn from her experience without ever having to experience the inside of a COVID-19 ER.
"Even though they hear the numbers I don’t think that matters to people until they are actually affected or see it for themselves."
ABC15 reached out to Banner for comment but at the time of publication we have not heard back yet.
As we have reported extensively in December, there is a statewide shortage of ICU beds.