Murdock fighting for life in COVID wing, family sees hospital struggles firsthand

The local SA healthcare system is struggling to find a place for and treat COVID patients during the current surge of coronavirus cases.  The Murdock family, in Devine, has seen this with their own eyes. This weekend they experienced how hard it is to find a hospital bed for their loved one, and how hard it is to leave them, and to be told that you can’t go back.

Darrell Murdock was having a hard time breathing and taken to the ER this past Saturday. He tested positive for COVID and also has pneumonia, and was in dire need of oxygen.

“My papa had to wait over 24 hours to get into a hospital bed,” said his granddaughter Sandy Lawler, of Devine. “We were at a Baptist ER, and since he tested positive, he had to go to one of the COVID ERs. We took him in Saturday evening, and he finally got into a bed at Northeast Baptist Hospital around 11:30 pm Sunday night, June 28.”

“That tells me there are just certain places set up specific for COVID patients, and I don’t know what overall bed availability is, but it took 24 hours for them to find a bed for papa, and they couldn’t even tell us what hospital he was going to until right before he left.”

“They moved him from an ER bed to an inpatient bed in a room that they have just for COVID patients I think. They wouldn’t let me stay the night and I’m told no one can go where he is now. When I call the number to check on my grandpa they answer it COVID ER,” Lawler said.

“I would do anything to help people understand how hard this is!!” Lawler adds. “Leaving papa felt like I was just giving up on him. He has always had one of us as an advocate, making sure he doesn’t fall, that he can hear what is going on and making sure he is eating and drinking. You not only can’t stay but have to fully trust in strangers to do things you’ve been doing for years. The worst of it all is you have to just hope the patient is fighting because no one knows the fight in their eyes the way family does.”

“It was hard to leave, and it is hard to watch my grandma have to sit at home,” Lawler said. “Papa and Gee have been together for 68 years, and now they’re told they have to be apart.”

Another family member adds that the free-standing ER facility that he was in originally could not provide the level of oxygen flow that he needed, so it was important (as with many COVID patients) that he be transferred to a hospital.

On Monday evening, Lawler added, “I just got off the phone with the infectious disease doctor watching papa. They are going to try to find him a donor to start plasma. Basically people that have survived the virus have the antibodies so they can pull the plasma to share those antibodies with the COVID patients. They said that’s papa’s only hope. She said the virus is very unforgiving and papa already has such a hard time moving around. So we are praying for a donor quickly! She said anyone that has had the virus and has had no more symptoms for 2-3 weeks can donate at a South Texas Blood and Tissue Center. She said they need people to step up to give papa and others a fighting chance.”

“If you’re already over the virus, but never got tested, they can do an antibody test to see if you are a good donor. I hope people will step up and give blood,” Lawler said.

Available beds…

There are still available hospital beds in the SA area overall, but it’s important to note that COVID patients require a high level of care and ‘COVID wings” isolated from other hospitalized patients. About 40% of COVID patients who have been hospitalized in Bexar County required ICU.

When we see that there are 1,172 available hospital beds in the SA area as of Monday night, June 29, we have to consider, how many of those beds are in Maternity wards? Babies are still being born. How many of those beds are needed for people recovering from other illnesses or surgeries?  COVID patients aren’t the only patients needing hospital beds, and they require a very specific set up and dedicated staff.


About 16% of patients who have been hospitalized in Bexar County have required a ventilator. Right now, there are 401 ventilators (58% available out of 689 total ventilators) at SA area hospitals. Compare that to three weeks ago on June 17, there was 78% available.

View from a local nurse on front lines from New York to Texas…

A local nurse who came home from the frontlines of the pandemic in New York just a few weeks ago. Little did she know, she would be on the frontlines back at home in Texas within weeks of her arrival home.

She has treated many COVID patients and says a lot of important developments have happened in the past 4 days, as staffing agencies (like the ones who helped in New York) have now been deployed to areas like San Antonio, TX.

“They are designating floors specifically for Covid patients, and shifting patients around. ICU floors are becoming full with critical COVID patients. So they are now utilizing other units for secondary ICU units and overflow.”

The number of COVID patients that a nurse can handle depends on how critical the patient is. About 40% of COVID patients hospitalized in Bexar County required ICU, and 16% needed a ventilator.

“When I was in Medical ICU in New York, I only had 2-3 patients a day. But on a Med-Surg floor, we can have maybe 6. That’s the going nurse to patient ratio. But sometimes you have 7 or 8 until they can get more nurses. I can say that every day the numbers are rising here in Texas. We have now been deployed to San Antonio, Laredo and Edinburg. For all types of nurses, and that’s within the last 4 days.”

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“I hope people wake up and realize this is not a fluke, this virus does not discriminate,” she adds. “All people are at risk. It’s not to scare anyone or cause mass panic. This is no longer a what-if situation for Texas; this is reality for our state. Texas is seeing people in their 20-30s suffering from COVID. Healthy young adults are susceptible as well. Mild symptoms may occur, and full recovery, but that’s not the case for everyone.”

“It’s a horrible feeling to see someone on a ventilator. To know that you can’t help them breathe, and to know it can happen to anyone, no matter what age they are,” she said.

Rare Warnings issued

The City of San Antonio took a rare action that they have used only a couple of times within years, a news report said.

According to a press release on June 27, 2020, the City reported “795 new COVID-19 cases reported today – the highest daily count yet – a record 58 COVID-related EMS transports, two more deaths, and 730 patients now in area hospitals, the San Antonio / Bexar County Offices of Emergency Management took the rare action of sending a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) to all phones in Bexar County. The WEA, which is similar to an Amber Alert, warns all residents to stay home, wear face coverings, practice social distancing and avoid gathering with people outside of their households.

“This action is reserved for only for emergencies, and we have clearly reached emergency status,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “We need every person in San Antonio and Bexar County to take this crisis seriously and behave accordingly to slow the exponential growth of the virus.”

Mayor Nirenberg emphasized the importance of the decision on issue the alert in a 7:30 p.m. video that was posted on his Facebook page tonight.

The message sent was as follows:

STAY HOME. The COVID-19 virus is spreading rapidly across Bexar County. Local hospitals are approaching capacity. Protect yourself and your family. Stay home except for essential activities, wear a face covering and avoid gathering with people outside your household. STAY SAFE. For more info visit

Atascosa County followed up by also asking their residents to stay home for 72 hours.

That alert stated, “Bexar County has issued an alert because of the high increase in COVID cases in Bexar County and we are issuing the same alert. We are issuing an advisory for Atascosa County for everyone to stay home for the next 72 hours. If you must go out, be sure you wear a protective mask and stay away from groups and socially distance. It is essential. The number of cases are increasing substantially in our County and in Bexar County. This is an important County health advisory. Signed Judge Robert L Hurley.”

By Kayleen Holder