On this date in 1996, Carolina Gutierrez's 21st birthday came and went as she remained critically ill in an intensive care unit of a Miami hospital. She had been hospitalized since December 21 of 1995, when her family had called an ambulance in their alarm over her difficulty breathing. Two days of trying to contact Maber Medical Center, where Carolina had undergone an abortion on the 19th, over her husband's objections, had yielded no help. The voice mails she left had gone unanswered. When somebody finally did pick up the phone, whoever it was had hung up on her. The young mother, who had no medical insurance, had been suffering from fever and pain since the evening of the 19th.
She had arrived at the emergency room already in septic shock. Doctors had performed an emergency hysterectomy, trying to halt the spread of infection from her perforated uterus, but the sepsis raged on.
Carolina spent her birthday as she had spent Christmas and New Year's: on a respirator, sepsis raging through her body. Her two children from a previous relationship spent most of their time in the care of relatives as her husband, Jose Linarte, spent as much time as he could by Carolina's side, waiting and praying.
The sepsis was getting worse. Carolina's fingers and toes were turning black with gangrene. But she was still hanging on, fighting for her life. The staff weren't going to give up on her.