For 14 years, Doris Freyre cared for her profoundly disabled daughter in her modest Tampa home, pureeing fresh fruit, yams and vegetables and surrounding the girl with family photos and pictures of angels.
Marie Freyre died in the care of a $506-per-day nursing home — sobbing, shaking and screaming for her real home.
She never saw her Minnie Mouse plush toy, her Winnie the Pooh or her Cabbage Patch Kids again. She never again saw her Mami or her Abuela.
Marie had been taken to the Florida Club Care Center against her mother’s wishes. Social workers insisted the Miami Gardens nursing home was the safest place for the 14-year-old, who suffered from, among other things, cerebral palsy and seizures. But the evening Marie arrived, records show, nurses did not give her life-sustaining medications and she may have had no food except applesauce.
When Marie struggled to breathe in the two hours before she died, no one at the nursing home called a doctor.
“We are still mourning for her,” said Jose Freyre, Marie’s grandfather. “She was a part of us. It was like losing a leg or an arm or a heart. We are all hurting.”
Marie’s death stands as a bitter reminder of a dog fight between state health regulators and federal civil rights lawyers, who have accused the state of warehousing sick and disabled children as virtual potted plants. The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights division has threatened to sue the state if it does not take steps to care for sick children outside of large institutions. Story by Carol Marbin Miller here.