Nikki Millie Coombs Maine disability COVID-19 hospital guardian

Millie Coombs says her 36-year-old daughter Nikki Coombs is severely disabled and non-verbal. She says she can’t communicate with coworkers to stand up for herself.

WELLS, Maine – Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals have limited or prohibited visitors. This is a logical solution to limiting the spread of the virus in hospitals and protecting patients and our first responders. However, some elderly or disabled patients cannot speak alone. They often rely on families to speak on their behalf. This dilemma has led to a multitude of complaints across the country, including here in Maine.

Nikki Coombs, 36, has struggled with a variety of health problems since she was 5. She fought hemolytic uremic syndrome, anoxic brain injury, insulin-dependent diabetes, seizures, a kidney transplant, severe kidney disease, and a double leg transplant.

Her mother Millie says that while Nikki is chronologically 36 years old, intellectually, emotionally, or mentally, she is nowhere near a normal 36-year-old.

Says Millie Coombs, “Nikki is a happy child and she brings so much joy to everyone who knows and loves her. Nikki loves Disney movies, Winnie the Pooh and friends, paints and reads children’s books. “

Nikki is non-verbal. Her mother or father has been by her side throughout her numerous hospital stays throughout her life. Her parents communicate with health professionals on her behalf and stand up for their daughter. Her mother says, “Because of her extensive medical needs, limited speech, and inability to call for help or use call lights, we never leave Nikki alone in the hospital.”

However, as of Wednesday, November 25, Nikki has been largely alone at the Maine Medical Center in Portland.

The hospital allowed Millie to visit her daughter briefly on the day this story aired, Tuesday, December 8th. However, according to Millie, hospital officials told her that this was not a routine privilege and that they could not make an exception if they would allow her to stay in the hospital with her daughter.

On her own, Nikki cannot make informed medical decisions and risks not receiving proper care. Millie fears permanent harm.

Millie Coombs says, “Nikki can’t tell you her name or date of birth … Nikki can’t even ring a call bell … she’d need my husband or me to interpret for her or the staff wouldn’t understand theirs.” Needs. It’s completely unsafe for Nikki to be in a hospital room without either of us being able to interpret for her. ”

“People who don’t know her won’t know what she’s saying. They will have no idea what she’s saying because she’s saying things.”

According to the latest MMC visiting policy, there are some exceptions in the bar for visitors and companions. This includes patients who need special assistance.

The directive states: “Patients in any care facility who need help – for example with mobility or communicating with the care team about their medical history or care – can be assisted by an adult to provide the help or support they need There is a need. ” determined by the care team. “

However, the policy implies that with very limited exceptions, visitors are not allowed in COVID-19 patients. It says: “Patients in isolation for COVID-19 infection or screened for COVID-19 infection [are premitted] No visitors except the end of life. “

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Millie Coombs constantly checks her daughter, sometimes five or six times a day, but says she is still worried sick. Now she turns to legal action to be with her daughter and work with an attorney for Disability Rights Maine.

“I don’t want to make the hospital feel bad about taking care of my daughter, but I just need to be with her.”

To be with her, to be her voice and to offer the kind of care only a mother can.

“I would say, ‘Nikki … mom is with you, I’m always with you and I love you and you will get better and come home.'”

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The Maine Medical Center made the following statement in response to this story:

Maine Medical Center has introduced restrictions on visits to hospitals and outpatient facilities to help protect care team members, patients, and visitors from the spread of COVID-19. These restrictions follow CDC and CMS guidelines and are in line with those of similar health organizations.

MMC recognizes that families and visitors play an important role in care planning and healing, and has guidelines that allow limited exceptions when clinically appropriate and safe for care team members, visitors and patients. These exceptions include situations involving pediatric patients, end-of-life events, and patients with disabilities or other limitations for which a visitor can provide the necessary assistance or assistance. Visitors should review the visiting guidelines on the MaineHealth website and discuss exception criteria with members of the care team.

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