DICKINSON CENTER — A local corrections officer is in the intensive care unit at the Plattsburgh hospital after being diagnosed with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.
“He went from having a mild fever and cough to being put in a medically-induced coma and hooked up to a ventilator,” says Lisa Jimenez, describing the nightmare her family is going through after her brother-in-law, Andrew Hastings, tested positive.
Hastings, who is 40 years old and the father of five children who range in age from seven to 18, was the second corrections officer at the Federal Correctional Institution at Ray Brook to test positive for the coronavirus.
Jimenez says she received a concerning text from her sister Justine early last Wednesday.
“At 2 a.m. I got a text from my sister who said Andy was having symptoms similar to COVID-19. He had a mild cough and spiked a fever during the night,” she said.
Because there was already one confirmed case of COVID-19 at FCI Ray Brook, where Andy works, they decided because of his symptoms that he should be tested.
Andy visited his local heath center the following day, where he was tested for COVID-19.
“Pending the results of the test and because of his symptoms, Andy and his family were quarantined,” said Jimenez.
By Saturday morning Andy received the news he was positive for COVID-19.
“He still only had mild symptoms: a stuffy nose, cough and fever,” she said.
However, things took a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse.
“My sister Justine called me yesterday morning around 4 a.m. and said Andy was having trouble breathing,” she said.
He was transported by ambulance to Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone and then transferred to the University of Vermont CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh.
According to Jimenez, an X-ray done at Alice Hyde showed pneumonia in Andy’s lungs, and his fever had risen to 103 degrees.
“He was admitted to the ICU, put into a medically induced coma and hooked up to a ventilator,” she said.
Jimenez says he has shown some signs of improvement but is not out of the woods yet.
“His temperature has come down and his oxygen levels are better, but his liver and kidney function have been affected and he had to be given medications to stabilize his blood pressure.”
The whole ordeal has affected the entire family.
“My sister literally sobs every day, and his children miss him,” she said.
Jimenez says the entire staff at CVPH have been amazing.
“The family is quarantined and not allowed to visit Andy, but the staff set up Zoom chats over the internet where they can see and talk to him, even though he is in a medically induced coma.”
Jimenez says she is angry with FCI Ray Brook for not taking more decisive action. She has tried to contact the warden but he had not returned her calls.
“Why didn’t they do more after the first COVID-19 positive case? There were no lockdowns and no masks for staff,” she said.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons did not respond to a request for comment.
Concerned for her sister, who is uncertain about her husband’s recovery and who is quarantined and out of work, Jimenez has started a GoFundme page at tinyurl.com/wra9eoa.
“She is out of work, has five children to feed and bills to pay,” she said.
Jimenez said she set a goal to raise $5,000 and wasn’t sure if they would get close to that, but says the generosity of friends and complete strangers has blown her away.
“As of the last time I checked on the GoFundMe page, we have raised over $17,000. When I told my sister about all the money raised, she just broke down.”
When asked what advice she would give to people who don’t take the threat of the coronavirus seriously, Jimenez said, “It is not a matter of if, but when it will affect you or someone close to you.”