Kimberly Conger, Sarah McSweeney’s nurse at her group home, shows a photo of McSweeney on her phone. She says McSweeney was outgoing and fun: “She absolutely adored going into malls and getting her makeup done and getting her hair done.”
On the morning of April 21, Sarah McSweeney woke up with a temperature of 103 degrees — and it kept rising. Staff at her group home worried that the woman with multiple disabilities — she couldn’t walk or speak words — had contracted COVID-19. They got her into her bright pink wheelchair and hurried to the hospital, just a block down the street from the group home in Oregon City, Ore.
That afternoon, Heidi Barnett got a phone call from the doctor in the emergency room.
He was puzzled, she says, by a one-page document that McSweeney’s caregivers brought with her. It was a legal document that explained what medical care this disabled woman — who couldn’t speak for herself — wanted.
“We had her at full code. So all treatment. Because she was young and vibrant and had a great life,” says Barnett. “And that was her wishes, that’s what we gathered from her. She wanted to be alive.”
Barnett works for The Arc Oregon, the agency that was McSweeney’s guardian. She had helped McSweeney fill out that document, called a POLST form, for a moment just like this.