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Coronavirus

‘Oh, Alexa, I’m going to hurt.’ Echo records woman’s pleas for help before dying of coronavirus

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, causes several symptoms that can be distressing for patients. Many have reported being unable to take a full breath, along with burning fevers and tightness in the chest.

All of these painful symptoms can be found in other diseases like influenza, the common cold and even bronchitis. Diagnostic tools like Alexa’s new COVID-19 questions are useful since they can help patients triage their symptoms without leaving home. Tap or click for a closer look at Alexa’s new skill.

Even though Alexa can analyze your symptoms, it can’t dial emergency services like 911 for regulatory reasons. But perhaps it should be able to — especially after a COVID-19 patient died while begging Alexa for help. Here’s what happened, as well as how you can set up your devices to call for help in an emergency.

A tragic death recorded

LouAnn Dagen was only 66 when she succumbed to cardiac arrest following a bout with COVID-19. She had contracted the virus at the assisted living home where she was residing and had repeatedly asked her Amazon Echo for help in the days leading up to her death.

When her sister examined her belongings afterward, she discovered 40 recordings where Dagen had pleaded with Alexa for pain relief and emergency support.

Among the recordings that she shared with reporters at WOOD-TV were statements like, “I am in pain. I have to find a way to relieve it,” “Alexa, I’m in pain,” and “Alexa, how do I get to the police.”

After four days of bravely fighting the illness, Dagen’s oxygen level and blood pressure dropped, prompting an ambulance trip to a local hospital. But by the time she arrived, her heart had already stopped.

In the years prior to contracting COVID-19, Dagen had suffered a stroke and was undergoing treatment for diabetes. It’s unknown whether her pre-existing conditions contributed to the severity of her case.

Her Alexa recordings, however, point to a serious issue found in the world’s most popular voice assistant: It can’t call for help during emergencies! You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but regulatory hurdles and a need for a monthly 911 surcharge prevent an Echo device from having the feature out of the box.

Luckily, you can set up your Echo to help you out in emergencies with this quick workaround.

Teaching Alexa to save your life

Alexa won’t be able to dial 911 directly, but it can send reminders to your closest contacts if you find yourself in a pinch. Skills like Ask My Buddy can send texts to emergency contacts of your choice with nothing more than a voice request.

And in emergencies, sometimes using your voice is all you can do. Tap or click here to see how one man used Siri’s voice-dial feature to save his own life.

To get started with Ask My Buddy, visit askmybuddy.net to begin setup. Then, fill out the information the app requests like your name, email address and cell phone number. Once your account is created, follow these steps below:

  1. Sign in and select the Contacts tab at the top of the page.
  2. Enter the emergency contacts you want to send alerts to. Make sure they know you’re adding their numbers before continuing. Press the Save Changes button when you’re finished.
  3. Ask Alexa the following: “Alexa, open the Ask My Buddy skill.
  4. Alexa will send a notification to the Alexa app. Open it on your phone and tap the alert labeled Action Needed – Ask My Buddy.
  5. Sign in to your Ask My Buddy account.
  6. Once your account is linked, you’ll receive an alert that says “Ask my Buddy has been successfully linked.” Tap Done in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

Now that Ask My Buddy is set up, you can tell Alexa to alert your contacts by saying “Alexa, ask My Buddy to send help” or “Alexa, ask My Buddy to contact [contact’s name].” Your contacts will receive an alert by text message after this, so make sure they know to call 911 if they receive one.

Related: Tap or click here to see the 25 most useful Alexa skills you’ll use time and time again.

If you know anyone else who relies on Alexa for their daily routine, make sure to share this with them so they can be prepared for emergencies, too. You never know — you might just save someone’s life.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

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