Genene Jones: Baby Killer
The Death Shift
It took doctors almost an hour to save young Jose, but they did. They noticed he was bleeding badly and they could not determine the cause. They found that his blood was not clotting, but eventually the problem subsided and he seemed okay — until the following day during the 3-11 shift.
Once again, Jose went into seizures and began to bleed. Early the next morning, his heart stopped beating. Cause of death: unknown.
When a doctor told Jose's father about losing his son, the man had a heart attack. While helping Mr. Flores to the emergency room, Genene allowed Jose's older brother to carry the baby's body. Then she grabbed the dead baby and ran down the hospital corridor. Several members of the family ran after her. She lost them and went into the morgue. No one could figure out what her behavior meant, but blood testing on the body indicated an overdose of a drug called heparin, an anticoagulant. No one had ordered it, and her superiors became suspicious.
Then two resident physicians who were treating a three-month-old boy named Albert Garza found that Genene probably gave him an overdose of heparin. When they confronted her, she got angry and left, but the child recovered. This incident also resulted in tighter control over the staff's use of heparin, making nurses more accountable and records more precise. Children whose health declined were to be subject to extra lab tests. If someone was doing something to children on this ward, she was going to get caught.
It was at this point that Genene's health seemed to be suffering. She also refused drugs prescribed by doctors to improve her condition. Often when she complained of something, there was no evidence for it. Again, it appeared she was angling for attention. Dr. Robotham, who had once been her ally, began to complain formally about Genene Jones.
In November 1981, the hospital administration, somewhat resistant to an internal investigation of the pediatrics ward, had a meeting. They decided that Dr. Robotham was overreacting. The struggling hospital did not need the possibility that such suspicions would come to the public's attention, so they declined to follow through. Yet that did not end Robotham's efforts to launch a formal investigation. He continued to watch the records of the 3-11 shift.
While heparin use was carefully monitored, another drug suddenly showed up in the death of Joshua Sawyer, age 11 months. He was brought in suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation after a fire at his home. He'd had a cardiac arrest, and doctors ordered Dilantin. He remained in a coma, but doctors expected him to make progress. Genene told his parents that he would be better off if allowed to die, however, since he would surely have serious brain damage. Then quite suddenly, Joshua had two heart attacks and died. His lab tests showed a toxic amount of Dilantin in his blood. Clearly someone's handling at the hospital had killed him, but the test results went unnoticed.
When Genene became aware that those who had always supported her were now suspicious, she turned to blackmail. She said she had records on every child that had died there and she knew which doctor had killed them. Robotham requested that she be fired, but no one listened. They also did not listen to the nurse who kept reporting that supplies were missing.
Then Rolando Santos, a one-month-old baby being treated for pneumonia, was suddenly having seizures, cardiac arrest, and extensive unexplained bleeding. All of his troubles developed or intensified on Genene's shift. He began to urinate so badly that he suffered extreme dehydration. For the three days Genene had off, the baby improved, but the afternoon she returned, he began to hemorrhage. Then he had a heart attack. Lab tests showed an excessive amount of heparin. Initially, a doctor took over his care, but after Genene got hold of him, he worsened again and went into a coma. Blood came up into his throat and his blood pressure dropped dangerously. A doctor saved him and then ordered him removed from the pediatric ICU and placed under 24-hour surveillance. Only under these conditions did he improve enough to be released to his parents. Rolando survived his encounter with Genene Jones. He was one of the lucky ones.
Finally one more doctor stepped forward to tell the hospital administration that Genene Jones, the afternoon shift nurse, was killing children. He had found a manual in her possessions about how to inject heparin subcutaneously without leaving a mark, and he had evidence of how Rolando Santos had suffered during Genene Jones' working hours. The hospital resisted, however, not wanting bad press.
Another child was sent to the pediatrics unit to recover from open-heart surgery. At first, he progressed well, but on Genene's shift, he became lethargic. Then his condition deteriorated and he died. The doctors were puzzled and could only attribute his death to some infection. In view of everyone in the room where the child had succumbed, Genene grabbed a syringe and squirted fluid over his forehead in the sign of a cross, then repeated it on herself. She grabbed the dead baby and began to cry.
More doctors complained and finally a committee was formed to look into the problem. Pat Belko and James Robotham were in charge. An outside team of investigators came in and determined that there was clearly a problem, but they declined to pin it on a single nurse. In the end, the committee decided to replace the LVNs on the unit with RNs, which meant that Genene would be transferred away from the babies. She reacted to this change by resigning. The administrators were relieved. In their minds, that took care of the problem.
All it did, however, was transfer the problem. The medical emergencies on the afternoon shift returned to manageable numbers, but they started up elsewhere.