For six long weeks, Rebecca Taylor has had to fight both the hospital and a statewide government mandate in caring for her beloved comatose husband. She’s begged Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for help, but in the meantime, other Texans can join her cause.
“Hordes of people can illegally ransack the streets with no repercussions, but when it comes to children visiting their severely brain-damaged comatose father, that’s where we draw the line?” asked Rebecca Reed Taylor.
In response to the Chinese coronavirus, a statewide ban on “nonessential” visitors to patients in hospitals was enacted on March 16. Only one designated caregiver would be allowed.
On June 16, Rebecca’s husband, Mark Taylor, was hit by a car as he was taking out the trash. He suffered severe brain damage and was taken to the Intensive Care Unit at Baylor Scott & White Hospital in Dallas County. He has since been in a coma with brief periods of awareness.
In a series of Facebook posts chronicling her ordeal, Rebecca tells a story of heartache and pain. Dealing with serious injuries is difficult enough; it’s even tougher when the government mandates you must bear such difficulties alone.
“Due to Coronavirus restrictions on visitation, I have had to shoulder this load completely alone,” Rebecca wrote on July 26. In fact, her first battle was fighting for the ability to stay with her husband at all.
On June 26, she was evicted from his room shortly after he had surgery. “There is no info on my being able to go back, because Baylor has responded to Governor Abbott’s orders by issuing a no visitors policy,” she wrote on June 19. “So, that means that if you’re already in the ICU with your comatose brain-damaged completely incapacitated and unable to advocate for himself husband, you must be ejected.”
She added, “Mark Taylor is still in a cold hospital room surrounded by silence with the occasional interruption of beeping machines, all alone, allowed no visitors. It is the greatest injustice I have ever experienced, and I am powerless to help him.”
She has successfully fought to be with her husband since, but it’s an ongoing fight. “There are moments when it is sad and depressing and overwhelming,” she wrote recently. “I used to be able to go home and work out my feelings in my garden. Now that I’m forbidden to leave this room or else not be allowed to return to him, coping is tougher.”
“The rules about visitation are completely arbitrary and vary from one hospital to another,” she told Texas Scorecard. “Even from one day to another. Baylor made exceptions for certain categories of people to include patients who were incapacitated. They eventually allowed me to come and go.”
“Mark got transferred to Select Specialty LTACH (long-term acute care hospital), which is not run by Baylor but rents space in the Jonsson Building of Baylor,” she added, saying they only let her stay if she agreed not to leave Mark’s room. “I did not know until after we checked in that they meant I could literally not leave his room.”
When one of the doctors noticed she was sleeping in Mark’s room, it got his attention, and he couldn’t believe Rebecca had been told this. He got the CEO involved. “The next day, he came back and said the CEO said he had to talk to someone else. I don’t know who that someone else is or when they’re going to get around to deciding to show some compassion. I’ve been locked in this room with my comatose husband for 10 days and 10 nights.”
At least Rebecca’s presence is the best medicine for Mark. “If he opens his eyes to see me, he will fight to stay awake and stare penetratingly into my eyes for as long as he can,” Rebecca wrote on July 14. She says he responds similarly when two of his three children are allowed to visit. She says the hospital will not allow their third.
“The evidence is clear to anyone who takes the time to observe him. Mark responds to me,” Rebecca added. “Mark tries to connect with me. His very survival and recovery hinge upon him seeing me every day, holding his hand, scratching the top of his head, wiping his face with a cool washcloth, talking to him about our life, the kids, the garden, the things that click with him.”
It’s not just her presence that has saved his life, but also her advocacy for him against a hospital she says has pressured her to end his life. Rebecca writes about “days when they send different people (because one wasn’t offensive enough) to ask you if your husband would really want to live ‘like this?’ When a stranger with a completely straight face asks if your husband wouldn’t want you to unplug him and just ‘let him go?’”
“The days when they tell you ‘any resident can close a wound’ as you fight for your right to call in the double board-certified plastic surgeon who has already agreed to take Mark’s case, since your husband’s face was split open – to the BONE – and would have this scar from the top of his head, along his outer eyelid, and forking in his beard under his chin. The days when they tell you your husband is never going to walk again, so that’s why they weren’t going to bother to operate on his leg. The days when they fight with you, telling you on the one hand that there is ‘nothing else’ they can do for him, so why don’t you just cooperate and let us send him on to a long-term care unit now (where, incidentally, you will be blocked from seeing him by state mandate over coronavirus restrictions) but they are going to roadblock your transferring him to a chief of neurosurgery for another hospital who again has already agreed to take him and try to help his brain. The scary news rolls in like thunder.”
Recently, Mark was again denied the transfer to another hospital. Two of Mark and Rebecca’s kids were most recently able to visit him, not in person, but through a window from outside.
Exhausted and worn out, Rebecca’s fight continues; and she will not stop, but she is asking for help.
“Whether your cries can reach Baylor, the governor, or the Almighty, please raise your voice and be heard,” Rebecca pleaded. She recently shared the letter signed by State Rep. Scott Sanford (R-McKinney) and 51 other members of the Texas Legislature, asking the commissioner of Texas’ Department of Health and Human Services to “immediately move forward and put a plan into action to allow limited family visitations inside their facilities.” This letter was sent in response to stories like Stephanie Kirby’s fight to see her special-needs son, Petre, who she is banned from being with by the statewide mandate.
“The COVID-19 restrictions involving visitation for my husband are cruel, arbitrary, and arbitrarily interpreted and enforced,” Rebecca wrote. She added that two hospitals outside Dallas County are operating differently.
If you or anyone you know has had a similar experience from government mandates in response to the coronavirus, we’d like to hear from you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.