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Alone Together: Mother-Daughter Duo Help Connect Families With Loved Ones In The ICU

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Many have heard the phrase "alone together" during the pandemic, but in the ICU, coronavirus patients are dying alone.

One local woman and her daughter have come up with a way to connect families, especially during those final hours.

"Human connection is a program that allows you to get a tape recorder and tape to record in order to record messages, prayers, sounds, books," said Olivia Stenson, who helped her mother fine-tune the idea.

The idea is simple: staying in touch when families must be out of touch due to COVID-19.

"This allows us to feel a little less distant from them during these hard times," Stenson said.

"We went through recorders to find out which ones would work best," said Dr. Christine Bell.

It was a process of trial and error, finding just the right one.

"I was concerned because I know a lot of people in the ICU are elderly, so I had to make sure that everyone could use these and that a nurse or doctor wouldn't accidentally delete," Bell said

This weekend she and her daughter delivered 10 to Lodi Memorial to patients intubated in the ICU. But she typically delivers them to families first.

"So the whole family did a recording and then they bring it back to the hospital with the patient's name on it, their room number, the patient's name, then the nurse or doctor take it to the patients' bedside and push play," Bell said.

Christine, a doctor herself, has given out more than 100 tape recorders to hospitals and families in this area. They say they are better than FaceTime because patients cannot speak or hold the phone and nurses cannot stay at patients' bedside.

"You don't have to be tech-savvy. They don't take a lot of thought. You don't need to read an instruction manual. You push play, you push record. And you put a tape in, it's so simple," Bell said.

She says initially families are overwhelmed with the uncertainty of the diagnosis and care. It's not until later on, she hears what warms her heart.

"In a thank you letter, one woman wrote she was Zoom-ing with her father as he passed away. And she could hear her grandkids in the background playing on the recorder when he was passing away. She said it meant so much knowing he wasn't alone that whole time," Bell said.

Doctor Bell has no official organization. She is doing this based on donations.

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