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Montgomery County woman treated for heart attack at hospital 'overwhelmed' by COVID patients, son says

Montgomery County Councilmember Craig Rice said his mom suffered a heart attack, but COVID patients clogged the ER and overwhelmed staff.

GERMANTOWN, Md. — The number of people hospitalized for COVID hit another record in Maryland Tuesday with more than 3,400 people currently being treated for the virus. Another 70 people lost their lives to COVID in the last 24 hours, the health department reported. 

In Montgomery County, one leader was near tears as he shared his own first-hand account of how overwhelmed hospitals are negatively impacting overall health care. Council Member Craig Rice said his 79-year-old mother, Vivian Rice, was brought by ambulance Saturday to Holy Cross Germantown Hospital after having a heart attack. 

“There were so many things that they were trying to do to handle the critically ill, like my mother, in addition to the unvaccinated majority who had COVID," Rice told his colleagues on the Montgomery County Council Tuesday during an emotional statement.

Rice said his mom was brought to Holy Cross Germantown because the closer hospital, Shady Grove, was already full. He estimated the diversion cost five critical minutes. Rice said doctors and nurses admitted his mom quickly and saved her life. 

But he observed that they were struggling under the load of so much else going on.

After the initial emergency, Rice said his mom was transferred Sunday to Washington Adventist. But the family spent hours waiting for an ambulance, because crews were busy. 

Rice said COVID patients clogged the system at every step of the way.

"The unvaccinated are nine times more likely to be hospitalized," Rice said to his fellow council members. "And those beds and those resources are precious. The precious time and resources are being diverted from other patients who also need that attention. This is real. I've seen it.”

RELATED: Virginia emergency order issued due to COVID surge, expands hospital capacity

Rice described waiting with families of unvaccinated COVID patients who had formed prayer circles. Some were agonizing over their inability to convince their loved ones to get vaccinated before they became ill.

"Those are heartbreaking stories to just see firsthand," Rice said.

He begged unvaccinated county residents to reconsider because of the impact on their families, medical staff and patients with other critical needs who are faced with clogged hospitals.

Vivian Rice, thankfully, survived and is now in good condition at home after her weekend ordeal, her son said.

Rice added that his vaccinated mother-in-law was also sidelined by COVID-related pneumonia that the family believes she contracted while working as a nurse at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring.

The Maryland hospital association is urging all Marylanders to get vaccinated, continue to take precautions and not to visit emergency rooms with non-critical needs, such as the desire to get a COVID test.

RELATED: 'Who do you trust?' | Unvaccinated people still feel hesitancy amidst COVID vaccine requirements

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