HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Some family members who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 are now dealing with more pain. Their loved ones’ cherished belongings they had with them at hospitals are getting lost or stolen.
For 37 days, Marisol Rueda sat at home hoping for the best, unable to be by her father’s bed side as he battled with COVID-19.
“It was the most painful experience ever,” she told CBS2’s Kevin Rincon on Friday.
In the end, Fabio Rueda lost that fight.
“My brother called me around 1 o’clock in the morning telling me my dad didn’t make it. I froze. I…” Marisol said.
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She said her dad was a caring grandfather and was married for over 50 years. It hurt not being by his side to say goodbye.
It also hurt realizing at the funeral home that her father’s personal belongings were missing.
She was handed her father’s personal belongings, which were given to her by the hospital. She proceeded to open two bags that were clearly labeled “Fabio Rueda,” with his date of birth and “COVID-19.”
“In one of the bags it was lady’s cell phone charger, a cell phone, her glasses, her clothes, and her driver’s license,” Marisol said.
She said her grief immediately turned to anger.
For weeks, Marisol tried to get father’s belongings from inside the hospital in Hackensack and wasn’t able to do so. When she shared her story online, she found she wasn’t the only one.
“That’s like a double smack in the face,” Sylvia Rosato said.
Rosato lost her husband, Bob, to COVID-19. He was treated at Palisades Medical Center for nearly a month. She said after his death she got his belongings at the funeral home and noticed something was wrong.
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Rosato said her husband’s gold necklace was missing.
“They’re grave robbers. If they’re not grave robbers, then they’re stealing from the sick,” Rosato said.
She filed a police report with North Bergen police.
George Rogozinski hasn’t heard back from anyone in weeks after losing Eva, his wife of 51 years to COVID-19. The bag with her belongings was missing a gold necklace he bought her in 1975, and a ring that has been in the family for almost a century.
“That was her grandma’s, so it’s hard for me,” Rogozinski said.
All three of the family members told Rincon it’s their hope sharing their stories will lead to policy changes throughout the entire Hackensack Meridian Health system that’ll prevent this from happening again in the future.
Hackensack Meridian Health issued the following statement on the Fabio Rueda case:
“This pandemic has been so tragic and we take each loss personally. At the height of the surge, we struggled to understand how to manage belongings for COVID-19 positive patients. We are meeting with patients and families to rectify the loss to the extent we can. This is undoubtedly an unfortunate situation and we offer our sincerest apologies.”