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Families On Outside Try To Advocate For Hospitalized Loved Ones


From the policy to the personal now. If you've ever had a loved one in the hospital, then you know how important it can be to have a trusted advocate close by. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made that impossible. Sarah Hulett of Michigan Radio reports on how families are trying to cope.

SARAH HULETT, BYLINE: Monique Baker McCormick had a hard time getting her dad to agree to go to the hospital. She says he could barely stand but would not get in her car. Eventually, he relented. McCormick, who's a county official in Detroit, took him to nearby receiving hospital.

MONIQUE BAKER MCCORMICK: Once I got in the back, they told me I couldn't be there and that I had to leave. It's scary. It's scary for him, and I could see it in his eyes.

HULETT: That was Day 1. Day 2, she heard nothing. That was her dad's birthday. He turned 74. She says those two days were the hardest - the not knowing. Day three, she tracked down somebody who told her her dad was stable. But his room didn't have a phone, so she couldn't talk to him. She kept calling her dad's doctor, not getting an answer. She's watching the news. It's all death and dying. On Day 5, she got ahold of his doctor. He sent her a picture of her dad.

MCCORMICK: Oh, it was just, like - just a wonderful feeling just to see him and know that he's still with us.

HULETT: McCormick finally got some even better news. Her dad came home. Across the country, Kecia Kelly is nursing division chief for Dignity Health, which runs seven California hospitals, including Saint Francis in San Francisco. She's written about the importance of patient visitation.

KECIA KELLY: When patients are sick and they're in crisis, they're not always hearing everything that we're telling them. You know, they may nod and acknowledge that they're hearing us, but it doesn't mean that they hear us. It doesn't mean that they truly understand us. And so family advocacy is very important in that very space.

HULETT: Saint Francis Hospital made that easier after a foundation bought iPads for patients to connect to their families. Kelly says that's helped, especially for patients without cell phones. She urges anyone with a loved one in the hospital to demand daily communication.

KELLY: Say, I'd like to have a conference with you and maybe the nurse, the social worker and the case manager. And I'd like to have a conversation about, what is the plan of care for my loved one?

HULETT: A lot of families designate one person to navigate care and talk to medical staff. Biba Adams is that person in her family. Adams rushed her mom to the hospital in late March. She was later diagnosed with COVID-19. Adams says one thing that's helped her is to call the hospital at the same time every day.

BIBA ADAMS: It shouldn't be, like, a whole bunch of people calling up there, just letting it be one person who calls. Let them know that person by name. You know, that really - I think that's helping our families.

HULETT: On the very same day Adams brought her mom to the hospital, her grandmother was admitted, too. She died about a week later. Biba Adams says coronavirus also killed her aunt.

ADAMS: I think that the thought of losing so much of my family history at one time - that started hitting me today.

HULETT: Four weeks into her hospital stay, Biba Adams' mom died. Biba's an only child. She says there won't be a service. I will do something as I see fit when I feel it is right to, she wrote on Facebook. She says she would like to see a citywide memorial service in Detroit, where the virus has killed hundreds and hundreds of people.

For NPR News, I'm Sarah Hulett in Detroit.


Sarah Hulett became Michigan Radio's assistant news director in August 2011. For five years she was the station's Detroit reporter, and contributed to several reporting projects that won state and national awards.