An Edmonton family is sharing their experience in the ICU at Grey Nuns Community Hospital after their father Dave Lowry, 76, was admitted on Sept. 18 following surgery complications.
“He ended up in ICU on life support on a unit with 22 patients — 21 of them being unvaccinated COVID patients,” said Debbie Christensen, Lowry’s daughter.
“My dad was the only one on the unit who wasn’t COVID positive and the only one who was vaccinated,” Christensen said.
“The doctors and nurses were very clear: ‘You are on a COVID unit.’
“It was surreal. We wandered through the halls looking at all these people who were alone,” she said.
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Christensen said the family was told their father could die and they would have to say goodbye one at a time.
“That’s not OK that we’re in this situation that my family, who has done everything right, can’t be in a room with my dad when we’re going to lose him,” she said.
Christensen said her father managed to improve and was transferred out of the ICU on Sept. 22, but he remains in hospital. However, she said her time visiting the ICU opened her eyes to the situation doctors are facing.
“While we’re on this unit, the doctors (and nurses) are just being horrifically, horrifically abused,” she said.
“(Health-care workers are) being sworn at, they’re being told that COVID isn’t real and (patients) don’t want to be intubated,” Christensen said.
“There are no words at this point. I’m just completely baffled. I’ve walked the halls of this ICU. I’ve seen that it’s real.”
‘The edge of the cliff’
Dr. Paul Parks, the head of emergency medicine for the Alberta Medical Association, said the situation in Alberta hospitals will only become worse without an increase in restrictions.
“I am advocating so strongly for increased public health measures at this point in time and our government to take leadership and to put in some meaningful restrictions,” Parks said.
He said he believes the province is just days away from implementing critical care triage, with increasing COVID-19 patients and no workers to care for them.
“We’re for sure close,” he said. “We cannot continue to keep adding (patients).
“If we do not slow the COVID case numbers and the curve, we absolutely are going to be pushed over the edge of the cliff.”
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Christensen shared her father’s story on social media in hopes that more Albertans would become aware of the dire situation in ICUs.
Christensen added her father could not wear a mask or protection from COVID-19 because of his life support.
“(We were) sitting there wondering: even though he’s vaccinated, is he going to be the small percentage that actually contracts it and ends up dying from that?” she said.
“You don’t want your family in there,” Christensen said. “You don’t want your loved ones in those spaces. (COVID-19 patients) are alone, and they may die alone.”
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Parks said that ICUs in Alberta are overwhelmed with the number of COVID-19 patients.
“We’re on the edge of the cliff. There’s very little else we can add (to support patients) at this point unless we slow the cases.”
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Parks added he believes there’s “no question” health-care workers will begin having to triage all critical care patients in a matter of days.
“This isn’t just COVID patients,” he said. “We’re getting to the point that anybody that would need critical care — motor (vehicle) collisions, strokes, heart attacks, anybody that would need those critical care resources to care for them — if this gets triggered, they’re in that equation as well.
“It will affect all Albertans.”
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