CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — In the days leading up to LouAnn Dagen’s death from COVID-19, the Metron of Cedar Springs nursing home patient repeatedly asked her Amazon Echo Show for help with her pain.
Dagen, 66, died Saturday shortly after her arrival at the Mercy Health Saint Mary’s emergency room in Grand Rapids.
Dagen was one of 31 residents and five staff members who tested positive for COVID-19 at the nursing home, which is now called Mission Point. The residents with COVID-19 are quarantined in a section of the community separate from the rest of the population.
It wasn’t until after her death that her sister, Penny Dagen, discovered the recordings from the Amazon device in her sister’s room at Metron.
“Alexa, help me,” LouAnn Dagen said in one of the exchanges.
There appeared to be 40 such recordings over the last three or four days of her life.
Penny Dagen played some of them for News 8 from behind the storm door at her home in Sparta. She said her sister would want her story shared to help others understand how relentless coronavirus is.
“I am in pain. I have to find a way to relieve it,” LouAnn Dagen told Alexa.
“Can you help me cope with pain?”
“Oh, Alexa, I’m going to hurt.”
At one point, she asked for help reaching law enforcement:
“How do I get to the police?”
The recording shows the device provided directions to the nearest police station.
She told her sister the pain was everywhere, but Penny Dagen said Metron was already giving her a pain reliever to try to control it.
“I just kept telling her there wasn’t anything I could do,” Penny Dagen said.
Through tears, she apologized to the little sister she had looked after since birth.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t help you more. I’d take your pain away,” she said, sobbing.
Penny Dagen said her sister had been short of breath early last week, but Metron told her that despite the COVID-19 infection, LouAnn Dagen did not have an elevated temperature.
“It wasn’t until Thursday that they started the saline solution because she was getting dehydrated,” Penny Dagen said. “She just kept saying, ‘I’m thirsty.’ She didn’t drink anything, though.”
Penny said her sister’s oxygen level and blood pressure dropped Saturday morning, prompting Metron to send her to the ER at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.
“They said she talked to the ambulance people all the way there, but when she got there, she went into convulsions,” she said.
“The hospital called me right away and said that they put her on a respirator… They asked me about giving her CPR if her heart stopped and I said, ‘No, she didn’t want that.’ And then her heart stopped and that was it. A half hour after they called.”
LouAnn Dagen had long struggled with diabetes and hypertension. She suffered a stroke almost a decade ago and had lived at Metron since. According to the medical examiner’s office, her death was caused by “coronavirus infection, diabetes and hypertension.”
News 8 reached out to Metron, but the home had not responded by news time late Tuesday night. We did reach an employee earlier in the day, at which time we explained that we had recordings of LouAnn Dagen asking Alexa for help with her pain. We hoped to ask Metron if the home monitored the Amazon device or if Dagen had been pressing her call light as well. We don’t know if the home was aware Dagen’s pain was not well controlled nor if there was anything Metron could have done differently.
Penny Dagen said her sister was a talented artist who played piano, organ and guitar. She also tried ventriloquism.
“She was such a talented girl. Very, very smart,” she said.
“It’s good to know she’s not in pain anymore, but I still miss her,” she continued through tears. “She’s up in heaven now so she’s pain-free, and she’s walking… with my mom and my dad, so I have to be happy for her.”
**Editor’s Note: Nursing home management provided News 8 with a response the day after this report aired, declining to go into detail about pain management because of patient privacy rules but saying Dagen received “excellent care.” | More on response