Alabama man dies after 43 hospitals in three states were unable to accept him because ICUs were full
Ray DeMonia, 73, from Cullman, Alabama
An Alabama man died of heart failure after being turned away from 43 hospitals in three Southern states that were overrun with COVID patients.
Ray DeMonia, 73, was eventually admitted to a hospital in Meridian, Mississippi, 200 miles from his home in Cullman, Alabama, but was too ill to save and died on Sept. 1.
DeMonia, who had owned an antiques business for 40 years, had suffered a heart incident just days before his birthday and required a specialized cardiac ICU bed.
His family said staff at their local hospital contacted 43 hospitals in three states asking for a free bed before finally settling in Meridian, Mississippi, according to DeMonia’s obituary.
He died shortly after arriving at Rush Foundation Hospital.
“In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you haven’t, in an effort to free up resources for non-COVID related emergencies,” his obituary read.
DeMonia’s death came the same day the US reported 180,000 new COVID cases, the majority of which were concentrated in the South.
COVID-19 Hospital admissions saw a dramatic spike in Alabama and the rest of the US in August
Alabama is lagging behind in vaccination coverage, with the state only recently reporting that approximately 50% of the eligible population has received at least one dose
Alabama’s health department recently reported that just over half of those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine have received at least one shot.
That’s well below the national average of 63.7 percent who have had at least one dose, and 54 percent of Americans who have been fully vaccinated.
During the week of DeMonia’s death, Alabama reported a shortage of ICU hospital beds, more than half of which were occupied by COVID-19 patients, CBS 42 reported.
The Alabama Hospital Association had called the situation “serious.”
“We’re definitely not going in the right direction,” AHA Deputy Director Danne Howard told CBS the day DeMonia died.
“That’s why we’re trying so aggressively to find additional resources so that those decisions don’t have to be made, so those kinds of life-or-death situations aren’t something we have to face.”
Johns Hopkins University & Medicine found that Alabama’s ICU beds had a capacity of 103% that week, and the Montgomery Advertiser reported that unvaccinated patients still make up the majority of COVID-19 patients in ICUs.
DeMonia’s family has asked others to get vaccinated to avoid the situation they’ve been through. Pictured, a woman getting vaccinated in August in Altamonte Springs, Florida
Russell Griffin, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Alabama Birmingham who has studied patients admitted to university hospitals for COVID, said 61 of 66 patients in intensive care for COVID had not been vaccinated.
He added that about half of the vaccinated patients in the ICUs are there because they are immunocompromised as a result of organ transplants or chemotherapy.
In comparison, the unvaccinated population that ends up in ICU generally has no comorbidities or the presence of two or more medical conditions.
“There are no deaths under the age of 65 in the vaccinated population at UAB,” Griffin said.
On Friday the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 163,000 new cases in the US and nearly 1,650 new deaths.