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Family of metro Detroit man who died of COVID-19 speaks out after delays gathering personal items

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Posted at 10:02 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 23:01:48-04

(WXYZ) — The pain of losing a loved one to COVID-19 is something Maudie Abraham never thought she’d have to face. Even worse, she says what happened after was unacceptable. Her brother, Robert Lee Byars, passed away from coronavirus on Saturday, March 28 at Beaumont Hospital in Wayne, Michigan.

“He means everything to us," Abraham said. "He was one of the brothers that was the call to person, whenever we needed something."

After Byars' death, she says she got the runaround from hospital workers for days as she tried to recover personal belongings such as keys, I.D., credit cards and his wallet.

After a week, she received an update but not one she hoped to hear.

“I was not going to the hospital," Abraham said. "Not with this virus, and I said well, Belleville somewhere? We ended up at Meijer in Belleville Road and that’s where I got the property.”

Part of the frustration dealt with cremation that Byars had requested, leaving no funeral home that could take possession of the items.

“This is something that should not have happened and it could be good for the state and hospitals to come together for a uniform policy” says State Rep. Kevin Coleman from Wayne.

Currently, hospitals make their own rules and there are no state or federal regulations pertaining to this. In part of a statement, a spokesperson for Beaumont Health says:

“Unfortunately, there were some delays in returning personal items that belonged to some deceased patients. We now have a better process that enables families to retrieve items more rapidly. If family is present at the time of death, we present the items to the family. If family is not present, they can pick the items up at the hospital at their convenience.”

Abraham only wishes the changes could have come sooner.

“I’d like for everybody to be on the same page for one thing," she said. "I was told there was no protocol."

We also checked with other hospital systems in the area. So far, they’ve not responded with info about their own policies.

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