Ray DeMonia, a 73-year-old man with heart problems from Cullman, Al., died last month after he was turned away from over 43 hospitals completely full of Covid-19 patients. After his death, his family pleaded for Americans to get vaccinated.
Showing up at his local Cullman Regional Medical Center in Alabama on Aug. 23, he and his family were told that they all of their ICU beds were at capacity. Ray DeMonia was experiencing heart problems, which are more life-threatening at the age of 73.
He was admitted, but the hospital didn’t have more specialized cardiac ICU beds for heart patients going into cardiac arrest. 12 hours after he was admitted, Ray’s daughter Raven said that the family got a phone call telling them that they contacted over 43 nearby hospitals over three states, and finally got the okay from one in Meridian, Ms., over 200 miles away.
“It was like, ‘What do you mean?'” Raven DeMonia told The Washington Post. The hospital informed the family that due to time constraints, their father would have to be airlifted 200 miles to the Rush Foundation Hospital in Mississippi.
Jennifer Malone, a spokeswoman for Cullman Regional Medical Center, commented later that, “the level of care he required was not available at Cullman Regional.”
Arriving in Mississippi, Ray DeMonia passed away shortly after on Sep. 1, three days shy of his 74th birthday. Now the family pleads for vaccinations.
“In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non COVID related emergencies,” the family wrote in his obituary. “He would not want any other family to go through what his did.”
Situations just like Ray DeMonia’s have become an ongoing problem in hospitals across the country as beds become more and more scarce with the Delta variant surging in the South.
“When patients are transported to other facilities to receive care that they need, that’s becoming increasingly more difficult because all hospitals are experiencing an increased lack of bed space,” Malone explained.
In a study conducted by CNN covering 13 states over a period of six months, it was found that over 80% of hospital beds were taken up by unvaccinated patients while fully vaccinated patients accounted for just 4%.
This past Friday, Ray DeMonia’s home state of Alabama was down 60 ICU beds, according to Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris. That’s 60 potential patients who are receiving critical care but do not have an ICU bed.
“We continue to have a real crisis in Alabama with our ICU bed capacity,” Harris said. Patients are “being cared for in an emergency department or a ward bed that’s been converted to an ICU room or on a gurney in the hallway,” because the standard ICU beds are not available.
Ray DeMonia was fully vaccinated at the time, according to his daughter Raven. After suffering a stroke in April 2020, he had to travel 50 miles through a pandemic-ravaged state just to find a “Covid-free” hospital.
Before the pandemic, Ray DeMonia was an antique dealer and businessman for over 40 years at DeMonia’s Antiques and Auctions. “He knew so much about antiques, and I was always trying to learn from him,” his daughter recalled.
“He knew what the vaccine meant for his health and what it meant to staying alive,” Raven said. “He said, ‘I just want to get back to shaking hands with people, selling stuff and talking antiques.'”
“Dad would just want everything to get back to normal,” she continued. “If people would just realize the strain on hospital resources that’s happening right now, then that would be really amazing. But I don’t know if that’ll ever happen.”