Renown Health is one of the country’s first health systems to lift visitor restrictions for patients with COVID-19 and encourage the family to be at the patient’s bedside. Read Darlene and Dave’s story to understand why we’re updating our visitor policy.
Dave and Darlene Randolph found joy in exploring antique shops and garage sales to find damaged or discarded vintage pieces. Dave would spend many hours scraping, cleaning, sanding, and refinishing items, transforming them into functional, beautiful pieces of furniture. Every piece in their home rekindles a memory and has a story to tell.
On Thanksgiving, when Dave was too ill to gather around their antique dining room table, Darlene called the ambulance. Ailing with COVID-19 for two weeks, Dave had not been improving. When the EMTs reached her home and asked Darlene what underlying conditions he had, she said, “all of them.”
David was seriously ill. Hospitalized for COVID-19, their communications options were limited. The only way Darlene could communicate with Dave was on a video call or by telephone. Dave spent 17 days hospitalized at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno. Darlene spent 17 days waiting by the phone for more information on his condition. Darlene said he had “up days and down days,” but thought he might be home, sitting at their antique dinner table for Christmas.
Sadly, Dr. David Randolph lost his battle with COVID-19 on December 13, 2020, and died as he slept in a hospital bed. When Darlene wrote his obituary for the newspaper, she gave thanks to the “tremendous nurses and doctors at Renown Regional Medical Center, for providing his care during a time when the family could not be with him.”
Taking Action to Inspire Change
Darlene wished she could have been there. Over their 45-year marriage, she had always been there. Darlene said, “I had always been at his bedside, as his advocate, to help communicate and straighten things out.” As a registered dietician, she worked in hospitals, knew the protocol, and knew that Renown had a restricted visitor policy to stop the virus’s spread- to other patients, staff, and their family members. Still, she wished she could have spent more time with him.
On Christmas Eve, she sat down and wrote to Dr. Anthony Slonim, president and chief executive officer of Renown Health in Reno, NV. “Dear Doctor Slonim, as the wife of a COVID patient who recently passed away in your hospital, I want to express my thanks to you and your staff for the care he received in the last days of his life. I am aware that the nurses and staff are working under dangerous conditions and risking their health and lives by caring for multiple COVID patients. The staff is gracious, concerned, and doing everything they can.” She continued, “I know procedures are changing every hour to try to stay ahead of this dangerous virus, and I am sharing my experiences, hoping they will be helpful when establishing policies that impact families.”
Darlene explained that despite receiving assurances that Dave’s nurse or a doctor would call daily, sometimes they would forget. She explains in her letter, “how important it is, in these times when the family cannot visit, and has only infrequent communication and is anxiously waiting at home for information about their loved one, how much it means to get a call from someone caring for him at the hospital. If there is a way you can help assure nurses have time to make calls or assist patients in making calls because it is an important part of patient care.”
A Person-Centered Visitor Policy
After receiving her letter, Dr. Slonim called Mrs. David Randolph to thank her, offer his sympathies and ask if Renown could help in any way. Darlene asked if he might reconsider allowing families to visit hospital patients during treatment for COVID-19. Dr. Slonim, who also lost his father to COVID-19 in April 2020 at a New Jersey hospital, asked his leadership team to review Mrs. Randolph’s request and make a recommendation.
As the COVID-19 situation has evolved, the policy has as well. Renown hospitals and medical practices now encourage limited visitors for all patients, including those diagnosed with COVID-19. Renown also has extra safety measures to protect the health of patients, visitors and healthcare employees.
Darlene is very pleased that her letter inspired this shift in visitor policies for patients with COVID-19. She says, “I have always tried to think of ways I could help other families. Especially those senior couples where one has been hospitalized and the other is home. My wish is to help others.”