The family of a Salmon Arm woman who died in hospital is questioning the lack of access and communication they had during their mother’s final days, but are also praising the conduct of healthcare workers in the face of the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Dec. 14 Dodie ‘Ruth’ Anderson passed away at Shuswap Lake General Hospital at age 92, after suffering both a fall and COVID-19.
Anderson’s daughter Susan Harris described the loss of her mother, without the ability to visit her, as absolutely devastating. She sympathizes with the many families who have gone through the loss of a loved one during the pandemic.
Although Anderson had been diagnosed with COVID-19 while living at the Lakeside Manor retirement residence, which has seen several COVID-19 cases, Harris said she believes trauma from the fall played a larger role in her mother’s death than the virus.
At the start of her mother’s hospitalization, Harris faced challenges getting information on her condition. She said she was regularly calling the nurses’ station, and received little information. She recognized they were extremely busy, and was eventually able to speak with doctors and provide input on her mother’s care.
Both Harris and Anderson worked in the medical field. Harris said she understands the demands placed on hospital employees and sees how they have only increased due to COVID-19. She noted that serious health issues like heart attacks and strokes do not stop happening, adding pressure on hospitals already challenged by the virus.
Harris was eventually able to get her mother’s cell phone to her in the hospital and was able to speak with assistance from nurses.
The fragile communication link over the six days Anderson spent in the hospital led Harris to reflect on families who don’t have access to cell phones. She suggested the possibility of a phone company collecting refurbished cellphones for hospitals to ensure family members could communicate with their hospitalized relatives.
The lack of access to her mother in her final days has impeded Harris and her family’s ability to grieve.
“You’re left empty, just absolutely empty,” Harris said.
Nevertheless, she noted the compassion and sympathy of Dr. Kevin Goldberg and Dr. Adriaan Heunis in particular.
Harris and her family are planning a celebration of life for Anderson in late spring 2021. In the meantime, donations in Anderson’s name can be made to St. Mary’s church in Sorrento or St. John’s church in Salmon Arm where she was a faithful parishioner. Harris said cards and condolences can be mailed to Anderson’s family care of Lakeside Manor.