‘IS my mother dead or alive?’ That’s what expat Lee Samuel, 54, was left pondering for five days straight as his 77-year-old mum Carole battled for her life in an Andalucian hospital.
The property salesman is now warning other families of what to expect if a loved one is admitted after he was repeatedly refused updates from the Hospital Costa del Sol in Marbella last week.
“It was absolutely terrifying,” the Club La Costa employee told the Olive Press.
“We phoned again and again but they kept telling us they could not give out that information over the phone and that we would have to come in,” he continued.
“But my dad Stephen was also in bed with the virus and I also had it, so there was no way we could come in.”
He continued: “One receptionist just hung up on me…it was terrible.”
The last Lee had heard from his mother was on Wednesday, last week, when she told him that she had double pneumonia – meaning both her lungs were filling up with fluid.
She said she was being put on oxygen pumps.
“We then heard nothing for five long days,” added Lee, “I understand that the hospital is under pressure and we totally get that the focus is on treating people, but surely there should be a better system in place to update loved ones.
“I was literally thinking ‘is my mother alive or dead?’ For days on end, it was horrific.”
The family were first struck with the virus when Carole began feeling ill two weeks ago.
The retiree tested positive, as did husband and former financier Stephen and son Lee.
Carole was taken to hospital after her symptoms became serious last Wednesday.
But despite having paid for private insurance for 16 years, Sanitas could not make room for her and she was sent to the Hospital Costa del Sol.
After the five-day silence and dozens of calls from family in the UK and Spain, Carole was finally strong enough to speak on the phone on Monday.
“Thank God we got her on the phone, and a doctor happened to be in the room at the time,” added Lee.
“We asked if we could move her to a private hospital but the doctor said it was too risky as it could disrupt her antibiotics and oxygen supply.”
After the Olive Press contacted the Junta and the hospital for a comment, doctors have begun keeping the family updated.
“My mum has now got worse and needs more oxygen,” Lee told this paper Tuesday, “But they are keeping us updated now which is much better.
“We just want others to be aware of what can happen if a loved one is hospitalised at the moment and we hope a better system is put in place going forward.”
The Hospital Costa del Sol told the Olive Press: “Due to the ongoing pandemic situation, the information given to the relatives of COVID patients is made by telephone and, for this, the telephone numbers that are in their Clinical History or those that are provided by the patients are called to inform loved ones.
“No one can be informed who is not authorised due to the Data Protection Act. In some cases, if no telephone is available, the requests of family members who enter through the different channels have to be reviewed, checked and verified i.e. people who request to contact their admitted relatives.”
British expat Paul Whitelock had a similar situation in Ronda this month, as he and his wife Rita battled COVID at the same time.
The former schools inspector, who speaks fluent Spanish, was continually told he couldn’t get an update on German Rita, who was critically ill in Ronda hospital for nearly two weeks.
“They kept failing to communicate what was going on… how her health was,” he told the Olive Press. “In the end I waited three to four days to hear how she was. She was so ill she wasn’t reading Whatsapps or answering calls. It was very worrying.
“In the end I had to literally demand I was coming in to take her home. Only then did I finally get a call from a doctor.”
He continued: “It’s the system…people need to start demanding change.”