Helen Lowery's family thought she was in the hospital.
The 97-year-old's neighbor and the managers of her Davenport apartment complex also thought Lowery still was a patient at Genesis Medical Center, where she was being treated for COVID-19.
On Oct. 21, a maintenance worker was sent into what was believed to be Lowery's unoccupied eighth-floor apartment.
"He found her unconscious in her chair," said Deloris Patton, a nearly lifelong friend and next-door neighbor. "She was taken back to the hospital, put on a ventilator and died two days later.
"I don't understand why they let her out of the hospital when she still had COVID. They didn't even let the family know. No one could help her because we didn't know she was there."
Patton thinks her friend was delivered to her apartment but never got out of her chair because the TV never was turned on, and she didn't hear a sound through their common wall.
Michael Lowery, Helen's grandson and power of attorney over her affairs, said he spoke with hospital staff in the days before her discharge and was assured his grandmother was doing well. He made clear, he said, that someone from the family would pick her up when she was ready to go home.
On Oct. 15, Genesis Health System President and CEO Doug Cropper was asked whether Genesis releases patients if they are positive for the coronavirus at the time of discharge.
“Testing is done while the patient is hospitalized and done until the patient is found to be clear of COVID-19," Cropper said.
However, Genesis on Friday made a different statement, which is attributed to Dr. Kurt Andersen, senior vice president of Physician Operations and chief medical officer: "Not all COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized are kept in the hospital until they test negative. Hospitalizing patients until they tested negative would place additional strain on hospital resources. When a patient's condition indicates they can continue to recover safely at home, they are discharged."
But Lowery's grandson said whichever policy is correct, neither was followed in his family's case.
"Why would you send a 97-year-old woman with COVID and pneumonia home to die alone? I called to see if I could pick her up, and they said she was in the emergency department. I said, 'She's a patient in the hospital.'
"We had no idea they'd sent her home and then had to go back and get her and put her on a ventilator.
"I love my grandmother dearly. There would have been no problem with me, my wife or our kids going to pick her up. She didn't even have her walker. It was in my car."
Patton, Lowery's 81-year-old neighbor, said she would have done anything she could, if only she had known Lowery had been discharged.
"I've known that woman for 65 years," she said. "It's so absurd they'd send her home in the state she was in. Why would they let her go home by herself? She was a sweet person, and it seems so unnecessary she died that way."
Lowery's grandson agreed, saying:, "I lost a beautiful person. It's a tragedy she went out like she did."
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