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Man who camped out in protest of ICU policies welcomes daughter back home

Marvin Abbott and Rachelle, 26, were reunited outside of hospital walls in January
Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 12:57 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - For the father who desperately sought to visit his daughter at an Anchorage hospital after she was medically evacuated out of Kodiak in September, the days are now filled with both heartache and hope.

“I’ve wanted to be with her since day one,” said Marvin Abbott of his daughter, Rachelle Abbott, who landed at Providence Alaska Medical Center after an incident back in the fall. “I had a hard time letting go of her hand in Kodiak, when they took her on the medevac.”

Abbott, who for a time could be found camping outside of Providence Alaska Medical Center in protest of hospital visitor policies, welcomed Rachelle home in early January.

The road to any recovery for the younger Abbott, however, has been a long one, with perhaps even more work ahead than lies behind. Rachelle remains bedridden, unable to speak for the time being, and dependent upon her dad for all of her care.

To make matters more complicated, Marvin has very nearly lost his daughter more than once in the past couple of months.

Rachelle, who worked primarily as a commercial fisherman, was already left clinging to life after after a severe asthma attack in Kodiak last fall. During her first hospital stay, she was found collapsed and unconscious by a nurse there, and taken to Anchorage.

Barred from visitation by COVID-19 restrictions, Marvin launched a campaign to see her, camping out in protest. His voice was heard, and eventually he was allowed to see Rachelle in the intensive care unit at Providence before she was transferred again to a different hospital.

After she was moved to the new hospital, Marvin said Rachelle came down with a case of coronavirus.

“It’s a respiratory thing, and the whole cause of this [situation] is respiratory,” he said. “In early November, she caught COVID inside of the ICU. I thought that was the end of things.”

Rachelle has since recovered from her bout with the virus, Marvin said, and he has since clung to hope.

“We have our moments, and they’re special ones,” he said. “I’m still hoping for small improvements: nothing miraculous, just small improvements. Maybe less neurostorming, you know? I don’t know if that’s possible, but anything is possible.”

Continuing, seizure-like events weren’t surprising to Marvin, he said, as Rachelle suffered from them throughout her hospital stays. Now, though, “neurostorming” — different from seizures, though perhaps appearing similar to those unfamiliar — is one of the many things Marvin has found himself dealing with amid his near-constant care for his 26-year-old daughter.

Often experienced by severe brain patients in the early stages of recovery, researchers have equated neurostorming to paroxysmal sympathetic hyperactivity, with of its indicators arriving in the form of posturing, or involuntary flexion or extension of the arms and legs.

And with fewer than half a dozen hours of professional assistance each week, Marvin said, the work of taking care of Rachelle falls mostly on him, though he will hopefully have more help from family and medical professionals alike here soon. He said his son visits regularly and both continue to learn more about providing for Rachelle.

“Still got a long ways to go,” he said. “I’m still learning a lot, you know. I take a couple naps here and there.”

“We’re going on one month,” he added. “I’ve been tackling everything all by myself. It’s been going very smoothly, but here in a couple weeks, my mom will be back up here, and she’ll be helping out.”

At the same time, he’s also been schooling his young granddaughter — Rachelle’s daughter — at home.

Still, Marvin does his best, holding on to hope, happy moments and happy memories whenever he can.

“She doesn’t smile every day, but some days, she smiles quite a bit,” he said of Rachelle, “and when I walk up and she makes eye contact and gets this big smile on her face, it’s like, like when a baby smiles at you. It just grabs you.”

“To me, I just think this is what any parent would do,” he said. “I don’t think I’m doing anything - unusual or out of the ordinary. You know? [...] It’s just how I do it. I couldn’t see it being any other way.”

Now that Rachelle is at home, Marvin said he’s hoping to be able to take her on visits away from the house, once the family is able to get a proper wheelchair and vehicle for that.

To help the Abbott family and aid them with extensive medical costs, click here to access their GoFundMe page.

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