A woman from Nebraska was heartbroken after reading Smithfield Foods’ response to her grandfather’s passing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vy Mai, 22, reached out to the meat-processing company through Instagram after her 80-year-old grandfather, Tam Mai, passed away last week at Bryan East Campus, according to NBC News.
In her message, the Juniata College student believed the disease was passed on to her grandfather by her aunt and uncle, who both live with the elder and worked for Smithfield Foods in Crete, NE. They later tested positive for COVID-19.
“My grandfather lost his battle last night after fighting for his life for a week,” Vy said in her May 7 Facebook post. “I want you to know he died in the hospital alone, isolated, and scared. want you to know no one in my family was able to say goodbye to him. I want you to know that we aren’t able to have a proper burial for him because of risk of infection. I want you to know that my aunt, uncle, and grandma cannot attend his viewing and cremation because they’re still infectious.”
After getting a reply from the company, Vy called the message “another cut and paste response” and that the lives lost, including her grandfather, “were just another number” to them.
“We are deeply sorry for your loss. Please know we are thinking of you and your family during this difficult time,” Smithfield Foods’ reply read. “As a Smithsfield Family, we ache at the devastation wrought by COVID-19. Both as individuals and as a company, we are deeply saddened by the passing of every one of the tens of thousands of people who have succumbed to COVID-19.”
In a statement to NBC News, Smithfield Foods wrote: “We have responded to Ms. Mai expressing our deepest condolences. Additionally, at the core of our COVID-19 response is an ongoing focus on employee health and safety and continued adherence with — at a minimum — the CDC and OSHA guidance.”
Tam Mai was a soldier in the Vietnam War who was captured by the North and put into a concentration camp for 10 years before he came to the U.S. in 1994, according to Journal Star. His family, including Vy’s parents, his three sons, and their wives, eventually followed after.
Vy’s aunt and uncle did not know they were infected by COVID-19 as they were asymptomatic. They only knew they were positive after they received Vy’s grandfather’s result in the hospital.
“My aunt and uncle had been going to work and did not know they had it,” Vy said.
The 22-year-old student received a call from her uncle on April 29 and was informed that her grandfather was having difficulty breathing. Her uncle also told her that the elder had “a sore throat and chills.” They immediately rushed Tam Mai to the hospital.
Vy met her family at the hospital and saw the condition of her grandfather.
“He was so pale and sick,” she said. “I helped him fill out paperwork and they came out with a wheelchair.”
Vy’s family was not allowed to visit the elder due to the virus’ highly infectious nature.
“He was so anxious, so scared,” she said. “It felt like the worst thing that ever happened to me, their taking him away.”
The staff at the hospital kept in touch with the family to share information regarding the elder. On the second day of his confinement, Tam Mai reportedly got a little better, but the following day, his kidneys started to fail.
Tam Mai’s funeral was held last Friday.
“My grandfather had to die alone in the hospital, no last words, no one to sit next to him and comfort him and that’s the reality,” Vy said. “I really just want people to protect themselves and protect their family members because we couldn’t protect him.”
Nearly 300 workers of Smithfield Foods have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. Last month, the company closed its Sioux Falls, Dakota factor indefinitely, US News reported.
Feature Image via Vy Mai