Across the world, people have been saying agonising goodbyes as relatives who are suspected of having Covid-19 leave for hospital.
In most cases, families aren’t allowed to follow their relatives to hospital, given the risk of the virus spreading. Ultimately this means that, for some, the walk to the ambulance is the last time they see their loved ones alive.
This tragic situation happened to the family of Maria Correa, who last saw her when she was rushed to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in New York City.
But, as the New York Times reports, when her family called the hospital the next day to check on her, they were told she was not at the hospital.
For a week, family members called every hospital in the city, the fire department and the emergency medical service which had picked her up.
To their horror, their 73-year-old grandmother was nowhere to be found...
New York City is the centre of America’s coronavirus pandemic and hospitals are stretched to breaking point. The NYT reports that calls to 911 are increasing at record numbers, hospitals are over-stretched and health workers are getting ill.
Correa’s disappearance happened when the family were already grieving. Her daughter-in-law had died in the same house, falling into a “diabetic shock after suffering for a week with vomiting and exhaustion”. They don’t know if she had Covid-19, because of a lack of tests, but they suspect it.
After her death the entire household became ill, including its oldest and most vulnerable member. Correa soon developed a cough and her condition started rapidly worsening. In order to identify Correa, her so had given the emergency workers his name and a medicine bottle with her name on it. But something had obviously gone wrong.
Janeth Solis, who led the family’s increasingly frantic search for Correa, told the NYT:
I believe she passed away...But where?
If she went to Jamaica Hospital, don’t they have cameras who show who goes in and out? Isn’t there paperwork to show when she arrived?
Solis then reached out last week to the NYT, who contacted Jamaica Hospital on her behalf. The hospital said in a statement that it could not find a patient with Correa’s name or birth date.
When the hospital said no one under the name of Maria Correa was there, the family was very distressed. After days of unanswered calls, they printed missing persons flyers with her picture and posted them on social media, reminiscent of the fliers that were stuck around the city after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The flyer read:
If you work at a hospital and have seen Maria, please call or message me ASAP.
Family is distraught.
The family assumed that Correa had died, but they didn't know for sure, which made an already agonising situation even worse.
But finally there was a breakthrough.
The family was contacted to say there had been a “critical error” made when paramedics transported Correa to the hospital.
On the patient intake form, Correa’s name had been listed by paramedics as Julian Escobar (her son’s name, who gave them the medicine bottle with her name on it as an identifier). Her son then drove to the hospital the next day to identify his mother’s body via photograph and he confirmed it was her. She had died not long after she arrived in hospital.
After finally learning what had happened, he said:
I’m glad my mom can now rest in peace.