Hospitalized father's condition worsens when daughter can't visit due to COVID-19

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) — Elizabeth Jarrett says her dad checked into CAMC Memorial Hospital for a minor injury to his leg, but his condition has turned life threatening. Jarrett has visited her dad, Delbert Runyon, every day and holding his hand since he was admitted Feb. 22.

Her dad is legally blind and suffers from dementia related to being out of his environment. With the hospital on lockdown, Jarrett was unable to visit her her dad for the first time in almost 30 days.

"I knew that we were racing against time with COVID-19 coming this way, so I kept pushing as hard as I can to help him get home," Jarrett said.

She said when she could not visit Friday, her dad took a turn for the worse, so doctors made a special exception. They called her Saturday to come over and be with her dad, saying to Jarrett they knew her presence helped.

"I really believe in helping people die with dignity, and I really believe in holding my dad's hand," Jarrett said. "And if he is going to die, I really feel called to be there."

While visiting with her dad for an hour, Jarrett says her dad squeezed her hand and recognized her. Afterward, she said he got better.

Another two-hour visit Monday at CAMC to see her dad helped, she said. But in the meantime, she said she walks around the hospital praying for her dad.

"It's the first time they used the word 'de-compensating' and, when I asked for clarification, they said basically his body is shutting down," Jarrett said.

She said hospice would be evaluating Runyon for hospice care Tuesday. The circumstance left Jarrett anxious about visitation hours at either place, but understand this process is hard for the hospital, too.

The situation was also a shock for Jarrett who said her father was suppose to be released this weekend.

"I do understand that they have to do this," Jarrett said. "I get that we have a pandemic and we are trying to protect the other patients and my dad and the hospital workers."

Jarrett's daughter, Maya Jarrett, said she has lived with her grandfather since eighth grade talking about history, education, and many other topics.

"I would just tell him I love him and that everything he has told me my whole life how I will always remember it shard but just thank you for everything Tahiti," said Maya Jarrett.

Elizabeth Jarrett says she knows of other people this is happening to, and she wants to be a voice for people in the hospital and for their family members.

"I know this story isn't just about my dad and I think I wanted to share this with you because I wanted there to be a face for lots of people who are in the hospital right now," said Jarrett.

Jarrett says her goal is to get he dad home so she can take care of him as she has done for years.

"So I might be facing this again if he goes to a hospice house, so I think what I am looking at is getting him home," Jarrett said.

CAMC Memorial Hospital released the following statement:

"We are sorry for this family and other families during this outbreak. We are in unprecedented times and have been forced to take unprecedented actions to protect our patients, workforce and visitors. We encourage families to use apps such as FaceTime when possible. Families facing end of life situations should call the nursing unit to make special arrangements."

Later Tuesday, Elizabeth told WSAZ there is a happy ending to this and a chance for Jarrett's daughter to talk with her grandfather again.

"I actually swore into the Army and the last time I saw him he was talking about the gender differences in the Army and how its actually better now," Maya Jarrett said.

And a chance for Elizabeth Jarrett to spend more time with her dad.

"Hospice called and they are going to help me to get my dad home," she said. "We are hoping for tomorrow, that is a happy ending."

With more families who's loved ones are hospitalized and it is hard for them to see each other, Jarrett says she is thinking about them, too.

"I know there are other people in the hospital going through the same thing and, even though I don't know their names," Jarrett said, "I am praying for all of them."