The mother of an 18-year-old child who contracted a virus that claimed 10 lives in a long-term care facility in Wanaque said she had to appeal to central staff members to bring her daughter to hospital when she developed symptoms last weekend.
The mother was interviewed on Friday afternoon when the state Health Department announced that two more children had fallen ill as a result of an ongoing adenovirus outbreak at the Wanaque Treatment and Rehabilitation Center.
"Can you guess, how bad he is if I don't tell them that he needs to be in the hospital?" mother said. "It shouldn't be like this."
A Wanaque center spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday night.
The mother, who lives in New York City and talked about the conditions of anonymity to protect the privacy of her family, was at her daughter's bedside at St. University Medical Center. Joseph in Paterson most of the week. He said his daughter's condition had improved since she was treated on Monday morning.
Like many other parents with children in the Wanaque center, the mother said she did not know of a deadly virus outbreak in the facility until two weeks ago, when she saw television news reports that six children had died. He had received a letter from the facility a few days earlier which informed him that several children had the virus, but it was not stated how many were sick or if there were deaths.
"Why did they keep this from us?" he says. "I examined it religiously. I called several times a day. By not telling us, they did not give us a choice.
"We can intervene," he added. "We can ask that our children be moved to another place. I will go there. I will take care of my child and make sure everything has been removed, that everything is done to make sure he will not get sick."
His daughter was born with cerebral palsy and lived with her mother and twin sister in an apartment in New York City. He suddenly had a heart attack when he was 12 years old, leaving him in a vegetative condition, his mother said. The Wanaque Center, 30 miles from a family home, is the closest long-term care center for children who have open beds and will receive Medicaid.
The mother described treatment at Wanaque as feasible even though she said she had to stay on top of staff, who she said suffered from constant turnover. He said he and his daughter's father would be visiting alternately on weekends. He said he would contact the nurse's office at least once a day to ask about his daughter's vital condition and record it in a notebook, where he now collected at least 20.
"I will not lie; they take good care of him," he said. "I have to be above them, but the overall treatment is good."
The mother was increasingly worried about the outbreak because more and more children became ill and the death toll increased. After the outbreak became public, he said the nurses and aides started wearing masks and dresses, and using stronger disinfectant wipes.
"If the Ministry of Health is there and everyone takes precautionary measures, then how does the virus spread to my daughter?" he says.
When he visited on November 5, he was worried that there was a yellowish secretion coming out of his daughter's mouth. He called the next day and was told that the liquid was still there, and that his daughter had developed a temperature that reached 99.6 degrees.
The mother told staff members that she wanted her daughter to be evaluated at the hospital. "But they kept saying that he was fine," he said. "They said they gave him Tylenol because of a fever and would give him a chest X-ray. But I kept telling them that he needed to be taken to the hospital."
The girl was taken to St. Joseph at 1am Monday. The level of oxygen in his bloodstream dropped and he was given 80 percent pure oxygen in the emergency room to help restore that level, said the mother.
His daughter was diagnosed later with adenovirus. He developed pneumonia as a secondary infection. His blood pressure and blood sugar surged for a week, his mother said.
The girl had stabilized on Friday afternoon, and the doctors hoped that she would recover, said the mother.
But he didn't want his son to return to Wanaque as soon as he was better. He said he wanted Wanaque's parents to unite and demand that their children be taken to a place other than the center.
"I feel bad bringing him back there," he said. "I want to take her home with me. I don't have enough space, but I don't want others to take care of her anymore."
The Wanaque Center is one of only four in the state that accepts pediatric long-term care patients. The others are in Voorhees, Mountainside, and Toms River.
Another case in Camden County
Meanwhile, state health officials announced Friday that a second outbreak of milder adenovirus at the Voorhees Pediatric Facility in Camden County had now made seven children sick.
The two outbreaks appeared unrelated, state health officials said. More than 50 adenovirus strains have been identified nationally by scientists, and Wanaque outbreaks are caused by type 7, while Voorhees outbreaks are caused by type 3.
More: The mother of a sick teenager demanded the Wanaque center where 10 people died in an adenovirus outbreak
More: Adenovirus victim's parents: Close the Wanaque center where 10 children die
The state has conducted site inspections in both facilities and sent teams with expertise in infection control to assess both centers and educate staff members. A Department of Health staff member is currently stationed in the center of Wanaque. Both facilities have stopped new receipts until the outbreak is complete.
Adenovirus usually causes diseases ranging from sore throats, coughing and pneumonia to diarrhea and red eyes. In those with a weak immune system, it can be far more severe. Many children in long-term care centers rely on ventilators to breathe and feed tubes for nutrition.
The most recent patients to become ill are diagnosed this week, until the end of Thursday. Outbreaks are thought to occur when two incubation periods of two consecutive weeks have passed. If no new cases are identified, the outbreak will be deemed to end on December 6.
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Kristine Deleg from Ossining, N.Y. speaking October 25, 2018, about Elizabeth Poulos's daughter, who died last week while at the Wanaque Center in Haskell, N.J.
North Jersey Note
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