Man dies after 43 full ICUs turn him away


 

The family of an Alabama man used his obituary to plead with people to become vaccinated against COVID-19.

Ray Martin DeMonia, 73, of Cullman, Alabama, ran an antiques business for 40 years and served as an auctioneer at charity events, the obituary said.

He had a stroke in 2020 during the first months of the COVID pandemic and made sure to get vaccinated, his daughter, Raven DeMonia, told The Washington Post.

“He knew what the vaccine meant for his health and what it meant to staying alive,” she said. “He said, ‘I just want to get back to shaking hands with people, selling stuff, and talking antiques.’”

His daughter told the Post that her father went to Cullman Regional Medical Center on Aug. 23 with heart problems.

About 12 hours after he was admitted, her mother got a call from the hospital saying they’d called 43 hospitals and were unable to find a “specialized cardiac ICU bed” for him, Ms. DeMonia told the Post.

He was finally airlifted to Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian, Mississippi, almost 200 miles from his home, but died there Sept. 1. His family decided to make a plea for increased vaccinations in his obituary.

“In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non COVID related emergencies,” the obit said. “Due to COVID 19, CRMC emergency staff contacted 43 hospitals in 3 states in search of a Cardiac ICU bed and finally located one in Meridian, MS. He would not want any other family to go through what his did.”

Mr. DeMonia is survived by his wife, daughter, grandson, and other family members.

The Alabama Hospital Association says state hospitals are still short of ICU beds. On Sept. 12, the AHA website said the state had 1,530 staffed ICU beds to accommodate 1,541 ICU patients.

The AHA said 83% of COVID patients in ICU had not been vaccinated against COVID, 4% were partially vaccinated, and 13% were fully vaccinated. Alabama trails other states in vaccination rates. Newsweek, citing CDC data, said 53.7% of people in Alabama were fully vaccinated. In comparison, 53.8% of all Americans nationally are fully vaccinated.

A version of this article first appeared on WebMD.com.

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