Family waits in agony for chance to see hospitalized 100-year-old matriarch again
MONTREAL -- Magda Hechema’s 100 year old mother Jeanette Assad is in the intensive care unit at the Jewish General Hospital, one of the hospitals that is dealing with the most Covid-19 patients in the province right now.
Assad underwent a trachiotomy this week due to a throat infection unrelated to COVID-19. In January, Assad was hospitalized for breaking several ribs and a shoulder in a fall. She was then re-hospitalized in February for heart issues.
“She’s really very, very ill,” said Hechema, who feels the end may be near for her mother. But what has been the hardest for her to bear, is that she has not been able to see her mother for two weeks, due to the COViD-19 outbreak and precautions.
“My mom is a very strong person. She’s fighting for her life, I know that. But because she’s 100-years-old, she has a bit of dementia. I don’t think she realizes that we’re under lockdown right now. That nobody’s allowed to go out on the street or see her and she’s all by herself in the hospital fighting for her life. I don’t know if she’s going to make it or not,“ she told CTV through tears.
Hechema is extremely close to her mother and usually sees her every day because she lives close by in T.M.R. She has three brothers who also visit their mother regularly. Now with suddenly no contact, she is begging that she or at least one of her siblings, who all live in Montreal, be able to put on protective equipment and visit their mother briefly to tell her they have not abandoned her.
“So that we can be face to her with her and explain that we are not there not because we don’t to be there, but because we can’t be there. Not because we deserted her anything like that. She knows she’s dying. She’s in the hospital by herself. She’s never been by herself. We are used to seeing my Mom almost every day of our lives. I can’t imagine how she can feel.”
Despite Hechema’s pleas, so far the answer has been ‘no’ because of the restrictions on visits during COVID-19. They are one of thousands of families who are not able to see elderly parents and seriously-ill loved ones during what could be their last days.
Hechema understands that hospitals have to be extremely cautious now. She said a social worker at the hospital even tried to arrange a video conference with her mother over her own iPad last week, but it didn’t quite work. She has no issues with the people who are looking after her mother. Her issue is with the directives they are under.
“Her doctor has been a real angel, God bless him, has been calling us three times a day to tell us what’s going on. Her heart had stopped once and they had to rescusitate her. And now she couldn’t breathe on her own so they had to cut her throat and put a tube inside her lungs so she can breathe, so I can’t imagine anybody suffering more than that.”
“I know everybody is sick and people want to be with their husbands when they’re having a baby and things like this but my Mom is a hundred years old. How much longer is she going to live? I don’t know every night I pray and I don’t know if she’s going to be around the next day.”
“We don’t want to touch her we just want to see her face to face and smile at her and give her some comfort so that she realizes we are around. We did not desert her. If she doesn’t die from her disease she’ll die from a broken heart.”
“So I beg if there’s anybody that can do something about that that they do it. I beg someone to do something about these humanitarian situations. I can’t think of anything more humanitarian than that. The older people they deserve our attention.”
Earlier this week Premier Francois Legault admitted he was getting daily messages from people who wanted to see their dying relatives. This afternoon, Quebec’s health minister Danielle McCann said, “They should have access when they are in palliative care, maybe in a long-term facility in the hospital. Elsewhere we give them gowns, we protect them, we give them masks, we give them all the protective gear and they should have access to their family members.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the CIUSSS-Centre-Ouest, which oversees the Jewish General, said the decision to prevent loved ones from seeing dying relatives "was not taken lightly."
"However, our overriding objective must be to prevent the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19. We feel for families who cannot visit their loved ones during such difficult times. We want to assure them that we are giving their family member the best of care. We are looking at different ways to provide family members with updates on their loved ones. One example of this is the Jewish General Hospital has waived all fees for the use of telephones in patient rooms."
On Friday afternoon Heshema received word that her mother may now be suffering from kidney failure. But one of the staff members in ICU arranged for Hechema and her brothers to see their mother on WhatsApp. Hechema says they were not able to speak to each other because of her mother’s condition but they made signs for her, which they held up. The told her they loved her and missed her but could not come to see her. The staff said Assad could see the signs. It was a tiny bit of solace.
“At least she could see we have not forgotten her,” said Hechema.