'Get the vaccine:' Tampa mother pleads as unvaccinated daughter fights for her life in the hospital

Joanne Thomas says doctors don't give her daughter much longer to live
Joanne Thomas.png
Posted at 5:53 AM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 09:33:07-04

TAMPA, Fla. — The COVID-19 delta variant is claiming lives of the unvaccinated every day. Doctors say patients are younger and healthier but are still needing tubes placed to help them breathe.

One Tampa mother said her 28-year-old daughter may lose her life because she didn’t get the vaccine.

“As a single mother, my only child, I don’t see how I’m gonna bury my only child,” Joanne Thomas told ABC Action News. “My life, my everything.”

Thomas’ 28-year-old daughter, Fabiola, has been in the hospital with COVID-19 since July 18.


“For a doctor to tell you, there's no more hope, this is it for your child. It's hard,” she explained.

RECOMMENDED: Manatee family urges vaccinations after mother dies, brother on ventilator

Thomas said her daughter has never had any previous health issues and did not get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I asked her, she said, ‘Mommy, I’m not taking it, I don’t know what’s in it. I don’t trust it,’” Thomas explained.

Fabiola’s symptoms started with not feeling well. She first visited an urgent care, where her mother said she was not tested for COVID-19. A few days later, she went to the ER near her home in Temple Terrace because her horrible cough was only getting worse. They gave her a test but told her it would take at least three days and to go home. Within those days, she ended up in an ambulance and was taken to Brandon Regional Hospital.

“I got a call last Friday, from a doctor that told me, ‘I'm sorry, unfortunately, we had to put your daughter on a vent.’ I lost it,” Thomas recalled.

Sadly, every week has brought even worse news.

“She's declining. She's not getting any better," she said. "Her livers failing, they’re thinking about putting a hole in the stomach to feed her."

They’ve even had Thomas come to say goodbye from outside the glass of Fabiola’s room.

“I was looking at her through the glass, I couldn't go in the room. She's laying there, helpless, on all type of tubes,” Thomas said, adding that she begged the nurse to let her suit up and go inside to touch her daughter’s hand, but they told her it wasn’t allowed.

We reached out to Brandon Regional to see if this is happening to other patients.

“Have you had to call any families or heard of any, any doctors having to call families and tell them that they can come and say goodbye?” ABC Action News asked Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Jose Vasquez.

“We have, unfortunately, to deal with this situation every day,” he responded, “Patients who are dying away from their loved ones, patients who are feeling, you know, isolated, and it's a very sad situation.”

“In the hospital, people are dying every day?” ABC Action News asked.

“Yes ma’am, not only all sick individuals we are seeing healthy, previously untreated patients who unfortunately are presenting now with the severe pneumonia, many of them die,” Vasquez said. “And the ones who survive are still connected to machines, you know, grasping for air.”

RECOMMENDED: COVID-19 survivor urges people to get vaccinated

The Florida Department Of Health reported 150,118 new cases from August 13 through 19, with 1,486 additional deaths from the previous week.

At Brandon Regional, Vasquez said 95% of patients admitted, like Fabiola, are unvaccinated.

“It was her decision. I understand that. But, whoever's out there that's doubting the vaccine. Please don't. This is serious,” Thomas pleaded.

“The doctor told me only God can do a miracle, and when she told me my daughter's not gonna survive,” she added. “I told her, that's what she said but that's not God's word, ‘cause I know my God is faithful. My God will put my child through, she will come out of the hospital.”

Vasquez also said he’s seeing fatigue among his hospital staff, who are discouraged so many critical patients chose not to get the vaccine.

It's extremely, extremely frustrating. As I said, I'm seeing the fatigue and demoralization in my colleagues, the nurses, and everybody dealing with this on a daily basis,” Vasquez said. “Because this is a preventable disease and unfortunately we’re still dealing with this.”

About half the state of Florida is fully vaccinated. Click here for a list of places you can get the vaccine.