Colorado Springs families push for Never Alone Project

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Two Colorado Springs families are pushing for change when it comes to isolation in hospitals. With restrictions for medical centers, some loved ones aren’t able to say goodbye in person to patients.

Steve Reiter and Rachel Stovall want to be signed into law legislation that will allow one screened visitor per day with no time limits so no patient has to die alone or go through major life-saving decisions by themselves. They are calling this a human rights issue.

“The hospital isn’t a place for fear, a hospital needs to be a place for hope,” Stovall said.

Never Alone Project is pushing for this type of legislation that would override emergency orders and allow patients to have a loved one at their bedside, no matter what.

“This was the love of my life for a quarter of a century and I just wanted to touch him,” Stovall added.

Stovall went 23 days without seeing her husband Keith. Keith Stovall was immune suppressed and had a kidney transplant in 2010. He first went into the hospital with an infection but he eventually was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“I literally called all over the hospital asking what the problem was with him being able to eat at another point we know for sure he went 11 days without being bathed,” Stovall explained.

After speaking with Colorado Springs Police for a welfare check is when her husband finally was bathed. Stovall even reached out to state representatives to get help so that she could get visitation rights. Keith passed away on Father’s Day of 2021.

“Now more than ever it’s important for families to have an advocate that has access to their loved ones, not this hour a day, not if they feel like it period point-blank as rights for Coloradans cause an error can show up at any part of the process and someone needs to be there with extra eyes and ears,” Stovall said.

“I’d hang up on Facetime and I’d really wonder if that was the last time that I was going to talk with my wife,” Reiter said.

Reiter and her wife, Elizabeth, both tested negative for COVID-19. Elizabeth went into the hospital on April 29, 2020. At the age of 40, she had an auto-immune disease, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. When she finally saw a doctor in person they diagnosed her with pneumonia and a blood infection, however, her family couldn’t see her in the hospital.

“I reached into my 20 years of being with her and the bag of tricks to try and get her to smile, try to get her to laugh but I could never get her to breakthrough, which was very unusual for her, SHe always a glass is a half-full type of person, very optimistic. I promised her we would be okay but said you have to stick around for you, and those aren’t the type of conversations you should be having over facetime,” Reiter said.

Reiter’s two boys went three weeks without seeing their mom. She passed away without saying goodbye to her family on May 19, 2020. Her family strongly believes if they had been there by her side that she could have lived longer.

“Love attention, and care, and an advocate someone that understands the situation and can ask those questions that the patient may not have the energy or even the cognitive ability, they might be knocked out completely, we need to balance the individual with protecting the doctors, nurses, and staff,” Reitner explained. “There is real trauma associated around this, not only for the patient but for their families because it eats us alive when we can’t get in.”

With these experiences and help from state representatives, they hope legislation like the “No Patient or Resident Left Alone Act”- House Bill 21-1172 will help others not have to die alone.

“Loneliness in these settings increases mortality rate from 26% to 50% it’s a lot,” Stovall added.

Colorado State Representative Tim Geitner for House District 19 believes this is a bipartisan issue but said there is a strong lobbying effort to prevent legislation like this from happening. His bill failed both in 2020 and 2021.

“The idea of this legislation is to make sure that hands are being held at those critical time,” Rep. Geitner said.

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