$100,000 in medical bills and a loving family could not save her.

Marie tried to eat healthy, and to stay on budget.  She purchased cantaloupe from Kroger in Garland, Texas in August 2011.  Over the next few days Marie consumed the cantaloupe in her home.

Despite her advanced age, Marie Jones entered September 2011 as a remarkably healthy, vivacious and active person.  She still dressed to the nines, often going out in high-heels.  Her daughter described her as a “firecracker.”  It is hard to find a photo of her where is not first of all, with other people, and most of all, smiling.  Her death was a crushing blow to her children and her sisters, and a loss for the whole community:

I was truly amazed by the outpouring of grief and sympathy from people that knew my mom from church, her old school friends, and even people she saw on a regular basis, from the girls at the Wal-Mart, and all of the friends she made everywhere she frequented.  It was such a shock and a sad loss for everyone.  I always knew she was an amazing and special woman and mother to me, but to hear it from total strangers, to me, really showed me just how special she really was and how much she will be missed.  Everything in our lives has changed from getting used to the fact that we can’t call her every night to talk about how everyone’s day went, or just to talk about life in general.  (Russell Jones)

This amazing woman was my mom, my best friend.   I don’t know how I can put sixty-one years in a few pages.  She was our ‘June Cleaver.’  We were always well fed and never wanted for anything.  She walked us to school every day regardless of the weather.  She warmed our clothes over the floor furnace so they wouldn’t be cold and warmed the dishtowel for our chests when we were sick.  (Terri Blackmon)

Marie Jones was born Marie Troy on June 2, 1922 in Dallas, Texas.  She had two sisters, Connie and Virginia, as well as a younger brother, James.  She married Bill Jones in 1945, and moved with him to Arizona.  The pull of family was too strong, though, and within a year, they were back in Texas.  Marie and Bill raised two children, daughter Terri and son Russell.  As Terri noted above, Marie was the consummate mother and homemaker.  Terri recalls this story of her mother’s love and commitment to her family:

She was great when my husband and I told her we were getting married in three days.  He was in the service in Vietnam, and was due to go back.  She and Daddy got busy and put together a church wedding for us that couldn’t compare to one that would have cost much more.  Little did they know that three months later they would be putting me on a plane to Japan.  Over the next two and a half years I would have a baby and major surgery.  It was nothing for them to have $600 phone bills.   When we finally came home to settle down, the grandkids were Mother and Daddy’s pride and joy.  They went to every event as long as they could.

Bill died in 1987, and from that time forward, Marie was “inseparable” from her two sisters.  Her life revolved around her children, grandchildren, and sisters.  At the time of the incident, she was in remarkably good health for an 89-year-old woman, living on her own at her home in Dallas, Texas.  Her primary doctor for twenty-one years, William D. Burnett, MD, states as follows:

Ms. Jones was a very compliant patient and took very good care of herself and was therefore in exceptionally good health for her age, both mentally and physically, prior to contracting Listeriosis.


Marie Jones from Marlerclark on Vimeo.

Marie began to fall ill on Friday, September 9, 2011.  She shared with her sister Connie, who lived with Marie, that she was achy and tired.  On September 10, she developed a fever.  Terri, Russell, and Marie’s sisters were concerned, but Marie insisted that they wait until Monday to take action, when Marie could see her regular physician.

On Monday, September 12, Russell went to see his mother at her home.   They had called Marie’s primary care physician, William Burnett, M.D., and the doctor had prescribed some ant-nausea medication and antibiotics.  Russell picked them up on the way.   He recalls his arrival:

When I got there, she was in bed.  I could tell she was sicker than I had ever seen her.  She was running a fever, nauseous and had body aches.  She managed to get down some of the nausea medicine but was afraid to take the antibiotic as they had upset her stomach in the past.

Russell stayed with his mother for a time, and left with a promise to check in soon.  Later that day, Marie’s sister Connie went in Marie’s bedroom to check on her.  Marie’s condition was worsening.  Connie stayed and cared for her sister until just past midnight.  Marie still seemed to be worsening, so Connie called Terri who then called her brother.  Russell described the situation:

Later that evening around midnight I received a telephone call from my sister, stating that our Aunt Connie had called her to say that our mother was not doing any better and thought we should come and re-evaluate the situation.  My wife and I drove directly to my mother’s house at which time we determined she needed immediate help.  Her temperature was very high and she was lethargic and unable to speak.  We called 911.  Upon arrival, they stripped her of the bed covers, lifted her out of the house and into the waiting ambulance.

Marie was taken by ambulance to Baylor University Medical Center – Dallas.  She arrived in the early morning hours of September 12, 2011.  Marie was administered IV fluid in the ambulance.

In the emergency room, Marie was noted to be suffering from two days of weakness, decreased appetite, nausea, and high fever.  Marie was described as “confused and aphasic [suffering from impaired language]” on admission.   Her urine sample was noted to be dark.  She was hooked up to an EKG machine, and it was determined that Marie was suffering from atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response.

Marie was admitted to her hospital room around 8:00 a.m.  Throughout the day, Russell, Terri and Marie’s sister, Connie stayed with her.  Marie’s condition changed little, her fever spiked on and off throughout the day.  Marie underwent a CT scan, which revealed “senescent brain without acute features.”  [Meaning the scan showed normal aging of the brain for a woman of Marie’s age, but no acute problems.]  Late in the day on September 13, Marie’s chest cavity began to fill with fluids.  The rapid response team was called, and Marie was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU).  Upon transfer, a PICC line was inserted in her groin, and she was sedated.  Russell recalls observing Marie’s terror:

From the time the paramedics arrived until they put her to sleep in ICU to insert a PICC line in the groin, she never closed her eyes.  I believe this was out of fear and uncertainty. It was very difficult to watch her in so much pain as mom had never been in a hospital, as a patient, since she gave birth to me in 1952. We all could see the fear in her eyes but she was unable to communicate anything verbally.  She wanted and tried to talk but could not get anything out, other than groans.

The following morning, September 14, Marie underwent a spinal puncture for testing of her spinal fluid.  The culture later returned positive for Listeria monocytogenes.   Even before the cultures returned, the physicians suspected bacterial meningitis, and Marie was started on a regimen of antibiotics, including Vancomycin, ceftazidime, acyclovir, Flagyl, azithromycin, and Bactrim.  Marie remained non-responsive.  There were other concerns as well.  Marie was hypotensive, and after a pulmonary consultation with Adam Mora, M.D., she was started on vasopressors.  She was also tachycardic, and was started on medication to control the rate of her heartbeat.  Marie’s prognosis was not good, as Russell explained:

Once the Doctors had stabilized her in the ICU, the doctor came out to talk to us, to update us on what they had done to alleviate the fluids that had been building.  The Doctor gave us little to be hopeful for.  We waited for several days for her to even open her eyes.  She finally opened her eyes but would never again be able to communicate with us, for the entire 2 weeks she spent in ICU.

There was little that either physicians or Marie’s family could do but wait, watch, and pray.   On both September 15 and 16, Marie remained largely unresponsive, even to her family members who rotated being by her side constantly.  She continued to suffer from pleural effusions (fluid in the lungs).  In addition, Marie developed a gastrointestinal bleed, and had bloody stools during both of the first two full days in the ICU.  Also on September 16, Marie began to show signs of renal insufficiency.  Blood tests revealed an increase in BUN and creatinine – evidence that the kidneys were not fully functioning.  This was consistent with the “volume overload” seen in the fluid on the lungs.  The blood tests also revealed the decrease in red blood cells (anemia).

While combating all of these problems, Marie very slowly began to make slight improvements.  On September 17, the renal insufficiency, anemia, sepsis and atrial fibrillation continued, but Marie became somewhat more responsive, clearly reacting to her the utterance of her name.  Marie remained non-verbal however, and unable to follow commands.   Her family members despaired knowing that Marie was cognizant on some level, and of the grief she was enduring, but unable to communicate.  Marie’s blood pressure did begin to normalize, and she was taken off the pressors.

On September 18, Marie’s heart rate also moved back towards normal.  An improved creatinine result in the morning’s blood tests showed evidence of renal improvement as well.  She did begin to suffer from bouts of diarrhea.

The chest x-ray taken on September 18 continued to reveal bi-lateral pleural effusions, as well as pulmonary edema.  On September 19, a cardiologist regarding the atrial fibrillation again saw Marie.  On this date, Johannes Kuiper, M.D, conducted the consultation.  Dr. Kuiper advocated a switch to oral beta-blocker medication to try to control Marie’s heart rate.  A second lumbar puncture was also conducted on September 19, and no longer revealed the presence of Listeria.   During her examination on that day, the physician noted that Marie was able to indicate to him that she was in pain.

Marie’s fever slowly abated, and by September 20, she was generally afebrile.  By this date as well, her anemia was heading towards resolution.  A chest x-ray also showed signs that the pleural effusions were lessening.  On September 21, Marie’s anemia and renal insufficiency continued to resolve very slowly.  Her atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure were also lessening.  She continued to have diarrhea however, and it was noted that pain medication was ineffective in relieving her discomfort.

By September 22, Marie was deemed stable enough to be transferred back from ICU to a hospital room on the regular floor.  It was hard for the family to know how optimistic to be about this generally positive development.   Marie still remained unable to speak or follow commands.  Her long-term outlook was still very unclear.

On September 23, at 5:30 a.m. Marie developed acute respiratory distress.  Due to the early morning hours, neither her children nor her sisters were bedside.   Russell and Terri were called, and they raced to the hospital.  By the time they arrived, the physicians had determined that Marie was almost certainly suffering from a pulmonary embolism.  Russell recalls what they were told:

Thursday of the 2nd week, the doctors moved her to a regular room.  The next morning around 5:30, Friday September 23, 2012 we received a telephone call from the Doctor at the hospital saying that mom had gone into acute respiratory failure and they were moving her back to the ICU.

Terri and Russell had now reached that point that is so hard for loving children.  A decision needed to be made about Marie’s care.  Russell said “The doctors told us there was nothing else they could do, other than keep her alive on a ventilator.  This is not the quality of life that my mom would have wanted.  So my sister and I decided to suspend all treatment other that oxygen and morphine drip.  This was the hardest decision we have ever had to make.”

With Marie being treated only to keep her comfortable, Terri and Russell began calling family members to come be by Marie’s side.  Connie and Virginia were able to make it down to the hospital fairly quickly.  The family remained at Marie’s side, speaking to her and holding her hand.  Marie did not outwardly respond.

At this point, the doctors said it could be anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours before the end.  All of the extended family was called in and were present for prayers and final good byes.  We like to believe she hung in there long enough for everyone to get there and have their time with her.  She slipped away approximately nine hours later while my sister, myself; our aunt and both of my children were holding her hands.  (Russell Jones)

Marie Jones died at approximately 9:30 p.m. on September 23, 2011.  Marie should not have died, but she did not die alone or unloved.  Here were some of the people that spent the last hours with her:

John & Terri Blackmon – daughter and son-in-law, Dawn Scott – granddaughter, Bethani Scott – great granddaughter, Keith & Janet Blackmon – grandson and wife, Samantha and Rebecca Blackmon – great granddaughters, Russell and Karla Jones – son and daughter-in-law, Kortney Jones – granddaughter, Travis Jones – Grandson, Chris and Mia Jones – grandson and wife, Connie Morgan – sister, Virginia Waller – sister, Wanda Lufcy – niece, Edwin and Ann Waller – nephew and wife, Elisa and Edie – Edwin’s daughters, James and Lela Troy – brother and sister-in-law, Bruce and Donna Troy – nephew and wife, Arnie Robertstad – Pastor, Bill Snyder – church member, Carol – church member, Chuck and Leslie – friends of Russ and Karla, Dane – Kortney’s friend, Britney – Kortney’s friend and Hope Aubuchon – Terri’s friend

We should all be so blessed.