State works to give more families chance to say goodbye to dying COVID-19 patients


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Tammy Bowman gives great thanks to IU West Hospital who allowed her and her mother to see Bowman’s sister Kim Blanchar twice in Blanchar’s final days.

“My mom and I just had joy that we were going to be able to touch her, even on Tuesday when she was unresponsive,” Bowman said. “The fact that we could put our hands on her, that we could kiss her head.”

Blanchar was admitted to the hospital on April 6 with the coronavirus. By Easter Sunday, Bowman received calls from the doctors telling her there was not anything more they could do, and if she wanted to say goodbye, she would need to come quickly.

“It was basically going to be up to her and up to God, but if we wanted to see her,” Bowman recalled. “If we wanted to see her when she was conscious and actually able to have a conversation, that we needed to come in that day or Monday at the very latest.”

They came right away. They wore gloves, masks and full gowns. Her sister was fully conscious.

“I said, ‘You know Kim, I’ve always told you the truth. The doctors said there’s nothing else they can do medically, that your pneumonia is getting worse,'” Bowman said with tears in her eyes. “She said, ‘I’m not ready to die. I want to live.'”

Sadly, Blanchar did not fully recover. She did get to see her sister one more time on Tuesday.

“We just talked to her and rubbed her face,” Bowman said.

Then, her family moved her to hospice care. It was not long before they no longer could visit Blanchar. The family stayed on the phone with her around the clock, and nurses and techs became family.

“She said, ‘I’m Jade, I’m one of the nurses and I’m just sitting here holding your sister’s hand and praying of her, and telling her y’all love her and we love her too,'” Bowman remembered.

Bowman wants all families to have the opportunity to kiss and see their loved ones one more time as their battle with COVID-19 comes to an end. This is something state health commissioner Dr. Kristina Box outlined in Monday’s news conference.

She issued new guidance for end-of-life situations which would allow hospitals and long-term care facilities to help people say goodbye.

“This applies even to loved ones that have COVID-19,” Box explained. “Because of the unique nature of this coronavirus, these decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis so that we make sure that we don’t unnecessarily expose someone who would be at high risk to get coronavirus. So for instance, a family member that would be at a very high risk if they would get sick by saying goodbye to another family than one member. I want to encourage all of our long-term care facilities and our hospitals across the state to review this guidance and have conversations so that families can have this last gift.”

We expect to hear more details about these guidelines this week.

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