Family of Hurricane Matthew victim speaks

Barbara Dennis, 70, was a wife and mother who had been on oxygen for the last seven years.   At night, she depended on tanks and a machine to help her breathe because of her COPD.

So, when Hurricane Matthew knocked out power to her East Orange County home, just before 1 a.m. on Friday morning, it cut off her lifeline. 

Her husband, Michael Dennis, says he was desperate.  He shows the bruises on his hands from trying so desperately to open the tanks and connect them for his wife without power.  

"I wasn't able to get it," he says. 

Michael says the ambulance arrived and took his wife away.  He requested one hospital, but he tells me the crew took his wife somewhere closer due to the storm.  Later Friday morning, Michael got the knock on the door he never wanted to get.   A deputy told Michael they needed to take him to a nearby emergency clinic.

He says he had a bad feeling his wife had died, a feeling that turned out to be accurate.  Meanwhile, Michael and Barbara's only child, Sharon, was forced to wait in Georgia, until Hurricane Matthew left them and allowed her to make the drive here.

"It was so difficult to know my dad was alone," explained Sharon. 

She and her husband arrived in Orlando Sunday, early enough to catch some local newscasts and hear people who don't know the family talk about Barbara's death and what the family did not do.

Sharon wants to set the record straight.   She says she and her family were unaware they could register into a special program for special needs people during the hurricane. 

"Had we known, of course, we would have registered, but we were unaware.  My mother's doctor never told us." 

The family also has the prerequisite back-up generator, but it wasn't on, because when they went to bed the power was on.

Now, they mourn and ponder the "what ifs" as they recognize the uniquely debilitating set of circumstances that took their mother and wife in a whirlwind.  And they remember all she was.

"My mother was a fighter," said Sharon.  "Anyone who knew her, knew she was a very strong woman."