A 71-year-old woman with Down’s syndrome was so frightened she had to be restrained as she lay dying alone of coronavirus.
Anne Gallun did not understand what was happening to her after being diagnosed with Covid-19 and taken to hospital, away from her loved ones.
She had to be restrained in bed, and was left covered in bruises after trying to leave her room at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Anne’s grieving sister Mary Pat Graffwallner said: ‘I know she was scared because they had to put her in restraints. They called and said she was black and blue.’
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Mary Pat said hospital staff had also tried to make Anne lay on her chest – a technique known to help treat Covid patients – but she did not understand why, and refused to do so.
She explained: ‘I called and just for half an hour pleaded with her to stay on her stomach because it would help her.’
Anne fell ill in July, with niece Maggie Haddock raising the alarm after her aunt did not recognize her voice on the phone. The group home where Anne had been living had kept residents isolated since March, with Maggie initially fearing her aunt had suffered a stroke.
Maggie told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: ‘She was very confused. She didn’t know who I was.’
Anne was driven to hospital by Mary Pat, where doctors diagnosed her with coronavirus. She was suffering from pneumonia, and received treatments including anti-viral drug remdesivir and convalescent plasma infusions in a bid to prevent the damage to her lungs from becoming fatal.
But Anne succumbed to the virus two weeks later after being moved to hospice care. Maggie called and played ‘Edelweiss,’ from her favorite movie, The Sound of Music, as Anne died of respiratory failure, but she could not respond.
Maggie said afterwards: ‘I would describe it as watching someone drown from a distance and just standing there and not being able to reach in and help.
‘To say goodbye to someone in this way – it’s horrific. It’s unimaginable.’
Paying tribute to her aunt, Maggie added: ‘She brought out the goodness in all of us. And I’m so grateful to have had someone like this in my life.’
Anne was born in September 1948, with doctors urging her parents to have her institutionalized. But they were determined to care for their daughter, with a doctor at the esteemed Mayo Clinic advising them to let Anne be a part of the family.
They did just that, with Anne thriving in the company of her family and peers. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett first met Anne in the 1960s, and said: ‘She was so outgoing and friendly.’
Anne’s parents advocated for special education programs that would let children like their daughter attend regular school alongside their peers.
Their efforts were successful, with Anne one of the first students at a special program her family credited with setting her up to live an independent and fulfilled life.
She later moved into the Parkway House group home in Milwaukee, and had regular contact with friends and family.
Anne’s independence and positive outlook on life saw her hailed as a ‘pioneer’ and inspiration for other people living with Down syndrome.
Anne struggled to understand why she could no longer attend her beloved day program after lockdown measures began in March, but kept up her longstanding letter-writing habit with family members, and had visitors come to her window.
Her grieving family have now shared Anne’s story to encourage others to take the threat of Covid very seriously.
Maggie also reminded younger people at lower risk of a serious Covid infection how easily they could pass it on to someone at risk of serious side effects.
She said: ‘As a country we really need to do our part to keep people, especially people who are vulnerable like Anne, safe.’
Covid has now infected 10.1million Americans, and killed over 238,000. President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to employ ‘bedrock science’ to bring the outbreak under control when he is inaugurated in January.
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