Nursing home patient asked Amazon Alexa for help as she lay dying of coronavirus, sister says

"She's up there with my mom and dad, and she's not in pain anymore," Penny Dagen said of her sister, LouAnn. "That's the only thing that keeps me going."

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By Janelle Griffith

A nursing home patient in Michigan with the coronavirus asked Alexa on an Amazon Echo device for help before she died, her sister said.

LouAnn Dagen.via WOOD-TV

LouAnn Dagen died Saturday, shortly after she was transferred to a hospital in Grand Rapids. She was 66.

She was one of six residents at the nursing home, Metron of Cedar Springs, which is now called Mission Point, who died after contracting the virus, according to the facility. Thirty-one residents and five staff members at the nursing home have tested positive for the virus, a spokesman for the center said.

Paul Pruitt, director of operations at Metron, said Dagen was a resident at the nursing home for 10 years and "had never been transferred to the hospital prior to the complications that rapidly developed as a result of COVID-19."

Pruitt said that she was getting "excellent care" and that staff members were following both her advance directives and clinical practice guidelines to manage her pain and symptoms.

"Once those symptoms progressed rapidly, and at the advice of her medical team, she was immediately sent to the hospital," Pruitt said.

Residents with the coronavirus are quarantined away from the rest of the facility's population, Pruitt said.

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The medical examiner's office said Dagen's death was caused by diabetes, hypertension and COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to her sister, Penny.

Dagen had two strokes in 2008, which left her paralyzed on her left side, her sister said.

"She was a very talented girl. She played the piano and the organ. She sang," Penny Dagen told NBC News. "She was a ventriloquist. She played the guitar."

Penny Dagen was unable to visit her sister in person after the nursing home, like others around the country, restricted visitors because of the pandemic. So Alexa became LouAnn Dagen's primary way to communicate with her sister.

Pruitt said: "She could call her sister through the device, and they communicated often. It was a very positive part of her life, which we supported fully."

It wasn't until Monday that Penny Dagen discovered the recordings from the Amazon device in her sister's room at Metron.

Penny Dagen, who lives in Sparta, about 15 miles north of Grand Rapids, said she believes the nursing home could have taken preventive measures sooner to slow the spread of the virus, but she said she doesn't fault the facility.

"That's all in the past now," she said. "There's nothing you can do about it now. What's done is done."

There were 40 or so recordings on the Amazon device over the last three to four days of her sister's life, Penny Dagen said.

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In one of the exchanges, LouAnn Dagen said: "Alexa, help me."

In another, she said: "I am in pain. I have to find a way to relieve it."

She also asked Alexa: "Can you help me cope with pain?" and said: "Oh, Alexa, I'm going to hurt."

Penny Dagen said Thursday through tears: "I just felt bad because I couldn't help her."

She said she finds some peace in knowing that her only sibling is no longer suffering.

"She's up there with my mom and dad, and she's not in pain anymore," Penny said. "That's the only thing that keeps me going."