Mikel Smith entered Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Grapevine a month ago. His family fears he will never leave.
Smith’s daughter, Ashley Thomas, founder and CEO of Freedom’s Fund USA, spoke with Texas Scorecard to discuss her family’s experience with Baylor Grapevine.
After contracting the coronavirus in mid-January, Smith went to Baylor Grapevine with difficulty breathing.
Already diagnosed with prostate cancer and stage 3 kidney disease, Smith went to the COVID floor, where he was isolated for the next 21 days. The doctors wanted to immediately place Smith on their remdesivir protocol, which the World Health Organization acknowledged does not have a significant effect on hospitalized coronavirus patients and should not be the typical treatment.
Smith, worried about his kidney disease, asked if there was another protocol, perhaps one involving ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, or monoclonal antibodies. Thomas says the doctors laughed in his face and labeled him a conservative anti-vaxxer.
Smith accepted the remdesivir as his only option and immediately received pressure from doctors to go on the ventilator, which he also refused.
According to Thomas, the doctors never questioned Smith regarding his hesitancy about some of these treatment options. Thomas said if they had just asked why he was unvaccinated, then they would realize it’s because he has cancer. If they had asked why he was refusing the ventilator, it’s because his brother died intubated just this last year.
“I know that would have given the doctor some insight, but they were too busy hounding and harassing, pushing their agenda on my dad,” said Thomas. “And then he gets labeled as a conservative, [and] doctors mock him.”
After two days of not perfect, but hopeful, status reports on Smith’s lungs by a specialist, Thomas received a phone call from her dad.
“I got a phone call from him crying because he was so scared because the doctors came in and they told him that his organs are failing, and he’s fixing to go into cardiac arrest if he’s not intubated.”
Thomas insisted on talking with the doctor in charge who shamed her for her questions, insisted that the ventilator was hospital protocol, and offered no evidence of Smith’s deteriorating condition.
“He didn’t want to go through it, but they scared him into compliance. And he was officially intubated early afternoon on January 28, and he has been in ICU ever since on the ventilator,” said Thomas.
About 10 days later, with minimal visiting hours due to Smith’s placement on the COVID floor, doctors began discussing ventilation trials to wean Smith from the ventilator and possibly perform a tracheotomy after Smith lessened dependency on the ventilator.
However, in the first ventilation trial, they lowered the sedation too fast. Smith’s heart rate skyrocketed and he became combative, fighting the process. The hospital then eased the sedation too quickly, causing Smith’s “blood pressure to drop dramatically,” said Thomas. “It was very dangerously low.”
The doctor informed the family that they would try another way by lowering the sedation, increasing the pain medications, and working the ventilator down very slowly. Smith’s family was in agreement with the doctors on the potential procedure, but they were “concerned by everything that was going on,” Thomas said.
Then another incident occurred that further weakened the family’s trust in Baylor Grapevine: Smith flatlined. A nervously laughing nurse called Smith’s wife to inform her, telling her one round of CPR brought him back. The hospital did not run any tests—EKG, echocardiogram, or cardiac enzyme—until more than 18 hours following the event, at the behest of an outside doctor.
By this point, the family wants to transfer Smith from Baylor Grapevine. Baylor Plano refused to accept the transfer because of the cardiac moment. The family then attempted to transfer Smith into the care of Dr. Joseph Varon at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston. This transfer was denied by the insurance as an out-of-network transfer. However, despite both hospitals accepting the transfer, UMMC never received Smith’s medical records from Baylor Grapevine, and the family became increasingly suspicious.
Thomas recounted numerous incidents of questionable decisions, practices, and communication by the Baylor Grapevine hospital, but she ultimately brought in legal counsel and apprised State Sen. Bob Hall and State Rep. Tan Parker of the situation.
The interim CEO of Baylor Grapevine allegedly told Thomas that it was “ridiculous” to be fielding calls from state officials regarding Smith’s case. After a meeting between the CEO, Baylor Grapevine’s lawyers, and Thomas and her lawyers, Thomas became more convinced than ever that the hospital was lying to them.
With years of training in interpersonal communications and by nature of working in the intelligence community, Thomas says the interim CEO was clearly lying to her throughout the meeting.
Nevertheless, Smith’s family continued to attempt to transfer him, but they were met with repeated roadblocks. The family wanted Smith in a hospital that could provide ECMO treatment and relieve some of the pressure on his lungs. Meanwhile, the doctors at Baylor Grapevine increased the ventilator from sixty to 100 and increased the pressure far past what is recommended by most clinics, according to the family’s research.
“So Baylor is either highly incompetent or they’re intentionally killing people off. And at this point, I’m thinking they’re intentionally murdering people,” said Thomas.
Eventually, Smith’s left lung collapsed. Baylor Grapevine maintained its refusal to downgrade the pressure.
Thomas said Baylor Grapevine refuses to provide any treatment to Smith at this point outside of keeping him comfortable. According to Thomas’ consultation with outside surgeons, the tracheotomy process takes 5 minutes and Smith doesn’t need to be non-dependent on the ventilator for it to happen. Baylor maintains that it takes 20 minutes and Smith needs to be less than 50 percent dependent on the ventilator.
“We’ve personally feel like they’re retaliating against him because … it’s still being brought, up the fact that he asked for ivermectin and that he’s unvaccinated. So, the fact that that’s still such a sore issue for people tells me that this is now a political situation. They’ve deemed him a conservative already. And that is why he’s being treated the way that he’s being treated,” Thomas said.
Thomas says no family should have to fight the very system that is supposed to be tasked with helping people and blames Senate Bill 6 passed by the state Legislature last year, which gives more power to doctors and hospitals in the time of a pandemic.
“This [SB 6] is why I think we’re seeing doctors and hospitals acting like they’re untouchable, because our lawmakers are supporting them and backing them. And what that’s done is … stripped the rights of the patient, and I feel like there needs to be medical freedom.”
Sen. Bob Hall agrees, telling Texas Scorecard, “Absolutely. Today, hospitals are far more interested in profit than [the] patient’s well-being.”
“It just feels like medical freedom does not exist at all here in Texas,” said Thomas. “And it’s shameful that we’re even having to deal with this. [Because] this is not medical freedom; this is medical tyranny. And the fact that this is happening in the state of Texas is wrong.”
Thomas, angry at the situation Baylor Grapevine put her father in, doesn’t want Baylor to determine how or when her father passes.
Smith had an atrial fibrillation (Afib) incident, where the heart beats out of sync. This can lead to blood clots, increased risk of stroke, and increased risk of heart failure. Smith is officially nontransferable.
“The doctor told my mom this morning [Wednesday] there’s no hope for dad,” said Thomas.
The family is now asking for Dr. Peter McCullough or another doctor to administer Smith’s treatment since Baylor doctors refuse to do more and only intend to keep Smith comfortable.
“It’s cruel, the behavior of Baylor Grapevine,” says Thomas.
Fearing retaliation, Ashley asked that Texas Scorecard withhold the names of the doctors and hospital administrators involved at this time.
Baylor Scott & White Health System denied the allegations in a statement to Texas Scorecard, “No, we do not. We are committed to providing the best care available, based on the current evidence, to all members of our community—regardless of their vaccination status.”
This article has been updated since publication to include the statement from Baylor.