Father, daughter reunited as hospital makes visitor exception

Providence Alaska Medical Center has not announced any changes to visitation restrictions
Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 10:26 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A week after the arrival of a man who set up camp outside a local hospital in protest of visitor restrictions triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, it became clear that his pleas were being heard.

“I don’t know if it’s happiness,” said Marvin Abbott, who arrived in Anchorage last Thursday in support of his daughter. “But, I feel better, I know that.”

Abbott’s daughter, Rachelle, entered the intensive care unit at Providence Alaska Medical Center more than a week ago. Throughout his time spent camped outside, Abbott has said he had no intention of leaving his post near the hospital. That changed, at least for a short time, when he got the call saying he could visit Rachelle in person on Thursday.

“It was a great feeling, just to be able to touch my daughter’s hand, talk to her, be with her, hold her,” Abbott said, “and to let her know her dad’s here. She needs to know her dad is here.”

Donning a mask, gown and face shield, and after getting a coronavirus test and having his temperature taken, the father and daughter were able to spend about an hour together, Abbott said.

“I just talked to her about memories,” he said, “and how proud of her I was of her this summer, how good she did, and how proud of her I’ve been throughout life. Not a quitter, always a fighter. So, I encouraged her to keep fighting this fight, not to give up.”

Rachelle’s condition has stabilized since she was first admitted to ICU, Abbott said, but the mother of one remains on life support.

[RELATED: As protests over visitation policies continue, decision lies with hospital work group]

“At one point, her heart was not beating and she was not breathing,” Abbott said. “She’s having a lot of seizures and stuff, and they’re trying to get the seizures under control.”

Still, as fall and rain begin to set in, Thursday proved to be a bright spot for Abbott, and a memory to hold on to.

“It’s the best I’ve felt in days,” he told a visitor to his camp Thursday afternoon. "I’m actually kind of smiling today.

“They had her hair braided,” he went on. “She’s a fisherwoman, and the first thing I noticed was her fingernails were clean.”

In visiting his daughter, Abbott also discovered how close to her room his setup is located.

“Even that’s a better feeling, just knowing which room to look up to,” he said.

While he was allowed one visit thus far, Abbott said that unless he’s on his way back inside the hospital, he isn’t planning on leaving town - or his camp - anytime soon.

“The weather and waiting for today and the rain, it made for a lot of long nights,” he said, "but I’m ready for a lot more long nights.

“There’s always a miraculous chance that she could come back and have very little damage and be okay,” he said. “There’s always that chance. Miracles can happen, but whether that’s going to be her case or not, only time will tell.”

Lisa Butler, who also shared her story of trying to visit her husband in ICU, said she is set to see her husband as early as Friday.

“It’s not every day‚ but it’s a step in the right direction,” she said Thursday evening, "and hopefully soon, with work groups meeting, they’ll allow visitation. But I’m definitely excited about this.”

A spokesperson for Providence Alaska Medical Center said Thursday that policies restricting visitors have not changed. When asked about why Abbott in particular was finally let in to see his daughter, a spokesperson said that, “All visit opportunities are consistent with our visitation policies and/or meet our exception criteria.”

A list of visitor policies, including exemptions, can be found on the PAMC website.

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