'I should’ve been with her': Families separated from loved ones in the hospital

Published: May. 10, 2020 at 10:23 PM MDT
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This Mother's Day has been different for so many families, and it's been difficult for so many of you. Hospitals are keeping visitors out to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus, which means some mothers are spending this day alone.

Elizabeth Reiter is a mother of two who lives in Falcon. Right now, her family says she's in the ICU with a serious lung infection that is not COVID-19 related. They have not seen her since April 29.

"When they put her on the gurney, that was the last time I saw her in person," said her husband, Steve Reiter.

Reiter says his wife was taken to UCHealth Memorial Central Hospital in Colorado Springs at first. The same day, he says she was transferred to the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, where her primary pulmonary doctor is. The couple has fought through serious medical issues before, but Reiter says nothing like this.

"She was in the hospital with an enlarged heart and congestive heart failure in December and November 2014. I never saw her as weak as what I saw her over FaceTime," said Reiter.

COVID-19 has changed all of our lives. The separation of patients and their families might be the hardest change of all. Hospitals across the country are banning visitors. Keeping families away isn't ideal, it's to protect everyone.

UCHealth has not allowed any visitors at the hospital for weeks. A spokesperson says exemptions are made for patients receiving end of life care. Beginning May 11,

or support person per 24-hour period, except at University of Colorado Hospital and Greeley Hospital.

Centura Health has a

No visitors are allowed for COVID-19 patients. All others can have one visitor per day.

A spokesperson for UCHealth says these policies are difficult for families and patients. Hospital staff and providers have been educated on the exceptions and can work with family members to ensure they can visit a loved one in an end of life situation.

“I don’t think that they’re doing this out of any cold-heartedness or any lack of concern," said Reiter. "I don’t think that way at all.”

His wife shared the following statement with KKTV 11 News:

"The night I woke up knowing I had to go to the hospital, after being sick and bedridden since March. This was truly one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life. Knowing how sick I was, knowing it could be the last time I would see my husband and not having time to even wake my children. I believe with the pandemic and knowing I would have to go alone (and the pain it would cause my family) pushed me to not go into the ER sooner. In that sense, I don't think I would have gotten so sick if I knew I would be able to have someone by my side. I believe that I may not have become deathly ill. I still have a heaviness knowing my family is hurting and I’m unable to comfort them. God has been good to me. I have wonderful doctors and nurses. I have had someone to hold my hand when I’ve needed to cry and someone to listen when I have needed to talk. I have received so much comfort, empathy and encouragement. And yet, I do carry every day the heaviness of what my family is enduring, and I know that weakens my body and that is a stress I don’t need. I’m overwhelmed when I hear all the horrific stories of those who are refused having a family member by their side -- even those whose illnesses are not COVID-related (like me) and their loved ones who have tested negative for the virus (like my husband). There is truth that hope brings healing, and we need something to fight for. If someone who is terrified, traumatized or feels alone could lose their hope and not choose to fight, then this leads to a longer recovery, trauma that could last for a long time or even death. I feel they’re not getting the chance to choose hope -- and in many cases aren't given understandable reasons why they can't see their families in a reasonable, safe manner. Sometimes, unfortunately, they aren't given any reasons at all, other than "it's policy." Patients and patient families deserve more than that. I do pray every day for the medical directors who have to make these decisions. I don’t believe they have tin hearts; they are truly trying to protect everyone. But that said, I believe there has to be away to provide for the needs of the patients and their families and still keep everyone safe."