Family pleads with hospitals to loosen visitor restrictions

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A central Ohio family is pleading for hospitals to loosen visitor restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, May 18, Michael Eberly’s family rushed him to the intensive care unit at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center with severe breathing issues. Though his symptoms appeared consistent with COVID-19, doctors ruled out the virus with extensive testing. Without a diagnosis, the 24-year-old was intubated on a ventilator Tuesday and admitted to a COVID unit for treatment.

“It’s been agonizing,” said Michael’s mother Laurie Eberly. “When you hear that he’s fighting the vent and he’s fighting his meds and they’re having to give him very high levels of medication to keep him calm you know that if you could just be there with him you could help that process.”

The Heath family says they are grateful for Michael’s high level of care and recognize hospitals are under extreme pressure, but they also believe that allowing at least one person to visit patients in critical care could ease stress for everyone.

“After a couple of months, we feel as though allowing patients to have at least an individual to visit them, especially in these instances where people are in critical care, is just vital. And it’s helpful for the staff and it’s helpful for the patient,” added Matt Eberly, Michael’s father.

In March, hospital systems around the state began restricting visitor access in both inpatient and outpatient facilities as they braced for a surge in COVID-19 patients and hoped to limit overcrowding.

READ MORE: Central Ohio hospital systems set visitor restrictions

Recently, some hospitals have loosened restrictions. The Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association announced on May 18th, most patients would be allowed one visitor per day, as long as safety and social distancing guidelines were being followed.

In a statement, the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center said, “We regularly review our visitor policy with our infectious disease experts to ensure the safety of our patients, staff and visitors. We’ll share any changes as they’re determined.”

The hospital also explained visitor exceptions for ‘end of life’ are determined by a patient’s attending physician and would not necessarily apply to all patients in critical care.

The Eberly family hopes they, and others in similar situations, will be considered as hospitals determine if and when to allow visitors.

“What for me started as a mother’s plea to be with her son to help has really turned into a burden for us as we think about so many families who are dealing with this,” Laurie Eberly explained. “And the patients whose families maybe are non-COVID patients, but may never get off the ventilator and may never have the opportunity to be with them until they’re making end of life decisions.”

By Tuesday, May 26, Michael no longer needed a ventilator to breathe and his family said his condition is slowly improving. They still have not received a diagnosis.

OhioHealth also said it is constantly evaluating visitor policies, but has no immediate plan to loosen restrictions. Mount Carmel also said it is evaluating visitor policies, but also has no immediate plans to loosen restrictions.

Coronavirus in Ohio resources:

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