Family of critical COVID-19 patient questions hospital communication

Coronavirus

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — Christopher Robinson is usually the life of the party, but his family says he is fighting for his life in a south Austin hospital.

An entire army of people are praying for Chris.

The 41-year-old is a supervisor for SuperShuttle, which is based at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

His sister Mary Robinson said he came down with COVID-19 symptoms about two weeks ago and tested positive. When he started experiencing respiratory issues, Chris was admitted to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center.

Mary said Chris’ partner also tested positive for COVID-19, and is home in quarantine.

Christopher Robinson (Family photo via KXAN)

Mary told KXAN she is her brother’s main point of contact for his medical team at St. David’s. She said she didn’t hear from anyone with the hospital until three days after he was admitted.

“All the while, I’m telling myself and my family that they are just busy, they are taking great care of him,” said Mary.

She described the communication as inconsistent and said there have been days when she didn’t hear from anyone at all.

Dr. DeVry Anderson, Chief Medical Officer at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, who is helping care for Chris, told KXAN documentation shows a member of Chris’ care team has reached out via phone or in-person to a member of his family every single day since he arrived at the hospital. He indicated Mary was not the main point of contact early on so the team was relaying information and updates to multiple family members.

“Caring for patients and family members is what the majority of us have committed our lives to,” said Dr. Anderson. “And so we are committed to making sure that we enhance communication in any way possible to help this particular patient.”

Mary, who also works in the healthcare industry, said she sympathizes with the nurses and doctors who are on the front lines but said the difficulty in getting information has been adding to her stress. She says it was causing her to lose trust in what doctors and nurses were telling her about her brother’s care and critical condition.

Mary also described a “heartbreaking” phone conversation with one of Chris’s doctors Monday. She told the doctor she wants the hospital to do everything possible to save Chris’s life — if it comes to that. Mary said Chris had indicated in previous conversations this is what he would want. According to Mary, the doctor tried to talk her out of it and said performing CPR would put him and his team’s lives at risk.

Dr. Anderson, who was not the physician on the call, believes there was a miscommunication. He said the doctor was trying to explain the difficulty in doing chest compressions due to the special type of bed Chris is in. It’s called a RotoProne bed, which is used for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome. It allows patients on a ventilator to be turned over in a face-down position to improve breathing. In order to do chest compressions, Dr. Anderson said medical staff would need to turn the bed over and lift up Chris’ body which could further complicate the situation.

According to St. David’s, Chris has been resuscitated twice and said hospital staff is prepared to do so again in accordance with the family’s wishes.

Dr. Anderson indicated nothing is different with patients battling COVID-19 in terms of resuscitation, and hospital staff will use every lifesaving measure available to treat all patients.

Mary said since KXAN got involved Monday, nurses called to apologize and have been updating her regularly. She’s feeling better about her brother’s care.

“We need every prayer right now,” said Mary. “To lose such an essential part of our family is going to be quite devastating.”

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