Family objects to reports of death

My name is Matthew Hedrick and I am the grandson of Willie C Lambert, the 95-year-old man that was reported as the first death in Randolph County from coronavirus at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown.

I am writing this letter to address some issues that I, and my family, have with the way that this was presented in your paper and the media. I am very upset how this was handled, and I wanted to present what we were told by the doctors and nurses we were in contact with.

When my grandfather was taken to Ruby, we were told that he had no coronavirus symptoms and that he had pneumonia and a serious UTI in the ER. When we left to return home, they were placing him in the quarantine and running the coronavirus test, as has been routine since the beginning of the pandemic. All new patients are placed in this ward as a precautionary measure. Up to this point, he was not on oxygen and he was breathing on his own. On Monday we were told that his test was positive.

On Monday, Aug. 24, I personally spoke to my grandfather. He was coherent, and was asking about his shirt and his dog. My mother and brother both spoke to him. The next day we were told he was in restraints, trying to leave the hospital, that he was placed on oxygen, and that he was incoherent.

We were contacted by a doctor who asked permission to give him convalescent plasma since he was an excellent candidate for the treatment because he was in the early stages of the coronavirus infection. We were told he had an excellent chance of recovery with the use of this. We were later told that week that he was given a second coronavirus test. During this entire time, he was given small amounts of oxygen, and had been sitting in a chair, and walking on his own.

On Monday, Aug. 31, we were contacted and told that he was being taken off of the oxygen, had improved, and that his second coronavirus test came back negative. On Tuesday, Sept. 1, at 4:30 a.m. we received a call that he had taken a massive stroke. At approximately 1:30 p.m. the same day we were contacted that he had passed on.

Everyone in my family had taken a coronavirus test as soon as we were told that he had tested positive and we all came back as negative. In fact, I myself was tested three times prior to his hospitalization, and I was negative all three times. My grandfather had self-quarantined from the beginning of the pandemic. He never left his house. He had no visitors except for ourselves, and I even stayed away when I was first tested in case I came back positive.

In case you missed it before, his second test came back negative one week after his first. If he had been positive, why were there no signs of coronavirus on his second test? If we can detect a virus in a 10,000-year-old mummy, surely we could detect the traces of a virus in a human that was still alive, correct?

I do not understand why my grandfather’s second test results were left out of the article and the news, even though this second test was discussed at a meeting with the health department before any press release was given. I also do not understand how it could be stated that he had been in the hospital for “several weeks” when the entirety of his stay was nine days. This was a blatant lie. From the time he entered the hospital, until the time of his death, he had been admitted for nine days.

I do not see how it is right to state that he was the first person in Randolph County to succumb to coronavirus when there were other conditions that attributed to his death. How would you like it if you were called that morning and told that your loved one had just taken a massive stroke, but you read in your hometown newspaper, see on your local news stations, and even hear from your own governor that it was coronavirus that had taken your loved one’s life?

Yes, the article did state that he did have other issues, but it seems that coronavirus is the only one that mattered. Why was it so important to list this death as a coronavirus death? Why was it not appropriate to state that he had taken a massive stroke and that coronavirus may have been responsible? It would have still made headlines in the media. A man passed from a massive stroke, and was believed to have contracted coronavirus, which attributed to his death. Not 95-year-old Randolph County man is the first reported death in Randolph County from the coronavirus. There was no mention of the stroke that he had taken that morning in any press release.

Ask yourself how you would feel if your loved one’s death was presented as a headline in your local newspaper and on the nightly news in this way without all of the information presented to your friends, coworkers and family. What would you feel would be an appropriate action to take?

This is mine.

Matthew S. Hedrick


Editor’s Note: In a Sept. 1 article about the first COVID-related death among Randolph County residents, The Inter-Mountain did not publish the name of the deceased or the town he lived in. The above letter has been edited for grammar and spelling, and in 14 instances the word “Corona” has been changed to “coronavirus.”


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