My mother began feeling ill on Friday, March 27th. By Sunday, she was struggling to breathe and the paramedics were called. She was not running a fever so they left. They were called again that evening and she was running a fever and gasping for air. We were rushed by ambulance to the nearest hospital and were turned away in the parking lot because the ICU was already full. She was in respiratory distress and on full oxygen. I had to basically almost get myself arrested to get anyone to listen to me -the admissions people would not even listen to the paramedics. Finally a security guard who was ready to escort me off the property checked inside the ambulance and told the admissions staff they had to admit her. Less than 15 minutes later, the ER doc called me and told me if I wanted to give her any chance at all, I had to allow her to be incubated. I agreed. They stabilized her and had her life flighted from South Georgia to the Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, 5 hours away from where we live. I immediately drove up there and checked myself into a nearby hotel and the only communication I could have regarding her was through nurses. They were as gracious and accommodating as they could be given the circumstances. For the next 18 days, I was alone, worried and scared not only for my mom but for myself. I knew I had been exposed not only from my mom but both paramedics that I drove to the hospital with were positive at the time but did not know it. This was early on and the only way you could get tested if you were asymptomatic was from a doctor referral. My doctor refused to allow me to get tested even though the hospital where my mom was said that it was no problem to test me there, but they were not accepting any new patients that were not critical unless by referral. I had no idea if I was going to get sick and if I did, would I wind up in the hospital too? If that happened, who would be able to check in and be my mom’s health advocate? Not knowing if I was contagious, I did not leave that hotel room for 18 days. I did door dash for food and my husband drove up a few times to bring me fresh clothes. I heard from my mom’s nurses twice a day – some days they made a little progress with weaning her off the ventilator and some days there was no change. At two weeks on the ventilator, they were becoming, in their words, “gravely concerned.” My mom was always fiercely independent – she would never have wanted to live on life support. I communicated that with the staff. They were not ready to give up on her and were doing everything they could. The hospital put in place an advocate program for families of covid patients for better communication. I was very grateful and wish that had been in place the whole time I was there. My advocate kept in close communication. She even took time to speak to my brother so that I did not have to explain to him what was happening and decisions that were going to have to be made. Mom always took care of everything for us growing up, she was one of those “super moms”. I guess on some level maybe she wanted to spare me having to make those difficult decisions although I was prepared to make them as I had done for my dad two years ago. On the morning of April 15th, my healthcare advocate called and said she was suddenly declining quickly and she raced up to my mom’s room so that I could maybe speak to her one last time but it was too late, she was already gone. I was with my dad for 4 days in hospice and I was there at the very end for him. There was closure for me. I think one of the most difficult parts of this for me has been the lack of closure. On the way to the hospital, I did hold her hand the entire time and told her I loved her. I hope that is the last thing she remembered. She was an amazing lady. She lost her left arm in an accident when she was a child but she never let that stop her from doing anything she wanted to do. She drove a stick shift car, showed horses and was an excellent swimmer. She over came two back surgeries, two rotator cuff surgeries, and survived a stroke a year ago and totally recovered. She deserved so much better than to have died alone, surrounded by strangers. I could not have a funeral for her, she was old fashioned and would have wanted one. Losing her this way has been very difficult for me. I miss you everyday mom, you were my hero.
– Lucie Beeley, Georgia