Lack of ICU beds due to COVID-19 forces Cullman man who suffered heart event to travel 200 miles for care

Coronavirus

East Alabama Medical Center nurse Harvard Graham checks fluids for a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Opelika, Ala. The medical center faces a new influx of COVID-19 patients as the pandemic intensifies. (AP Photo/Julie Bennett)

October 02 2021 06:00 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The family of a Cullman man who died after being transferred over 200 miles to Mississippi for a cardiac ICU bed is asking for people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ray DeMonia, a native of Cullman, suffered a heart event that put him in need of a specialized cardiac ICU bed. Alabama’s shortage of ICU beds caused by COVID-19 meant staff had to scramble to find DeMonia the care he needed. After contacting 43 hospitals in three different states, a bed was located in Meridian, Miss.– nearly 200 miles from DeMonia’s hometown.

DeMonia died at Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian on Sept. 1, just three days shy of what would have been his 74th birthday. His family asks in his obituary that people get the COVID-19 vaccination.

“In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non-COVID-related emergencies.”

DeMonia is remembered in his obituary as a businessman who put his talents to use in the community. He spent 40 years in the antique business at DeMonia’s Antiques and Auctions and traveled the country in search of antiques and to share his expertise. For over 20 years, he served as auctioneer for the yearly Cullman Rotary Club fundraiser auction and the Annual Draw Down Auction for the Hospice of Cullman County, Inc. The family is also asking that donations be sent to the respective organizations in lieu of flowers.

Only a week ago, the Alabama Hospital Association reported that the state was short 120 ICU beds with over half of the beds hosting COVID-19 patients. A lack of nurses and staff keeps hospitals from expanding ICU units, and AHA called the situation “dire.”

Ventilators are also at an all-time demand according to the AHA, and respiratory therapists are in short supply to man the machines.

While the federal government recently announced extra measures to curb the surge of COVID-19, Republican governors, including Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey, say that the measures, such as one that mandates companies with 100 or more employees require vaccinations or weekly COVID-19 testing for staff, are an “overreach.”

As of Friday, Alabama has seen approximately 12,605 COVID-19 related deaths.

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