close
close
Posted in

Nurse whose coworkers failed to resuscitate her has workers’ compensation claim denied – NBC Los Angeles

Andrea Morris led an active life, working as a nurse, running marathons and raising her three children as a single mother.

But that all changed on May 14, 2020 when Morris arrived to work at the City of Hope cancer infusion center in Upland.

Court records show she told her supervisor, also a nurse, that she was not feeling well and was concerned she might have Covid-19, an ongoing problem in the early months of the global pandemic.

“She was really concerned about her children and the fact that she was getting it from a patient or another medical professional and then giving it to one of her children,” explained Pam Bertino, Morris’ sister. “A lot of anxiety and stress, all the time.”

The symptoms Morris worried were linked to Covid turned out to be the first signs of sudden cardiac arrest.

Nursing supervisor Karen Serna recorded Morris’ medical emergency on her cell phone as she called 911. Both recordings were shared with the I-Team by Morris’ attorney.

‘I can’t get her blood pressure. She’s moaning all over now. It looks like she’s having a seizure,” Serna told the 911 operator.

It’s very scary to think that your boss would videotape you, essentially going into cardiac arrest and agonal breathing, instead of responding and providing CPR.

Pam Bertino, Andrea Morris’ sister

Serna repeatedly incorrectly called what happened a seizure, but she did not measure blood pressure, even manually.

“She’s not moving at all,” Serna told 911. The operator asked, “Is she not breathing?” Serna replied, “No.”

In an ongoing employee lawsuit, Serna was asked by Morris’ attorney: “Once you were no longer able to take her blood pressure, the fact is that you did not begin CPR.”

“Right,” Serna said.

“This was a missed opportunity to save her, wasn’t it?” the lawyer asked.

Serna responded: “I disagree with that statement.”

Defense attorney Keith More also questioned how video recording helped in that emergency situation, whether it helped Morris breathe or get oxygen to her brain. Serna said no.

“It’s really scary to think that your boss would make a videotape of you actually going into cardiac arrest and having agonal breathing, instead of responding and giving CPR,” Bertino said.

More pointed to repeated failures to properly assess and respond to Morris.

“There were six different opportunities that she had to recognize, do something, but she didn’t do anything,” More said.

And he said witness statements show it wasn’t just Morris’ supervisor, Serna, who was present.

“There were two nurses, a medical assistant and two doctors. All City of Hope employees,” he said.

One of those doctors later said under oath that he was not qualified to perform CPR.

“There was a defibrillator very close, oxygen very close and they just weren’t responding,” Morris’ sister said. ‘It’s the biggest mystery of the whole. She was dying, her lips turned blue and then purple.”

In court testimony, Morris’ friend and fellow nurse Alma Harris said it wasn’t until Morris arrived on the scene that Morris was finally given oxygen and chest compressions, but that was more than seven minutes after the 9-1-1 call began.

Eight months in hospital followed. Morris’ family said they were forced to sell her home and liquidate her $401,000 to help pay for her medical expenses. She now lives with her parents, who are in their eighties. Her two sons also help with the care.

“There’s a woman who was an athlete, she lost her livelihood, she lost herself as she knew it,” Bertino said.

Morris now requires 24/7 care, which costs more than $200,000 a year. She can’t take a sip of water herself. During a break in the trial, she talked about seeing Serna’s video of her sudden cardiac arrest for the first time and her boss’s reaction.

“I didn’t like it,” Morris said. “I was so sad.”

Harris, who intervened to save Morris’ life, testified at the trial that she felt she “couldn’t tell the truth” about what happened when she was questioned during a deposition. She said an attorney representing the City of Hope punched her chair to silence her. Harris told the judge she thought the lawyer was going to hit her.

Harris still works at City of Hope and was nervous speaking on camera, but she told the I-Team, “all health care workers need to be prepared for basic life support.”

Nearly four years have passed since Morris’ catastrophic near-death experience that left her paralyzed. Her sister believes her sudden cardiac arrest was caused by the enormous stress of life as a frontline worker during Covid. Before the pandemic, the published job description for Morris’ nursing position stated that “the employee will be working under stressful conditions.”

Her family is shocked by the denial of her workers’ compensation claim and wants City of Hope to take responsibility for what happened.

“This happened under your watch, you know you have insurance,” Bertino said. “Please help this woman who helped your patients, who helped your company.”

The I-Team contacted City of Hope and said, “As this is ongoing litigation, we will not be commenting.”

The day before this story was to air, City of Hope issued the following statement: “We are deeply saddened by the serious medical event Ms. Morris suffered in 2020, and our hearts go out to her and her family. our employees and everyone we serve is City of Hope’s top priority, and we remain committed to maintaining a safe work environment for our staff and clinical teams. We cannot comment specifically on this ongoing case.

The process is underway. Because trial dates in workers’ compensation cases are not consecutive, it can take several months for testimony to be complete. City of Hope attorneys have not yet called their witnesses.