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Andover family camp out on rooftop to be with hospitalized son

When 20-year-old Skyler Aikens was transferred to Ascension Via Christi St. Francis on Tuesday afternoon, it was an emotional moment for him and his close-knit Andover, Kansas, family.

"They're just always there for you," says the Butler County Community College student of his dad, Tom, mom Amanda, and 18-year-old sister, Mandalyn.

And thanks to technology and a 7N staff willing to move Skyler to a patient room overlooking the roof of the St. Francis parking garage, they continue to be there, despite the recently enacted visitor restrictions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Since Skyler's admission, the family has spent most of their time parked on the north end of the parking garage, allowing them to comfort him with their physical presence and keep him entertained with cartwheels and other antics performed by Mandalyn and Skyler's girlfriend, Sophie Buchanan. 

"We've got your back," Amanda tells her son via Facetime. "No matter where it's at," adds Tom with a laugh.

It's that cheerful presence, via Skyer's phone and view out the window that has played a tremendous role in Skyler's upbeat attitude.

"Whether on the rooftop or Facetime, they have not left," says Skyler, who recently was diagnosed with ITP, a condition that causes a person's immune system to attack and reduce its platelets to a dangerously low level.

All of the staff on the unit has been great, says Skyler, whose family's closeness has been uplifting to them as well.

"Having the visitor restrictions has weighed heavy on all our hearts," says Kayla Frazier, nurse manager of the unit. "It's good to see a family find ways to make the best of the situation and provide the support that every patient needs."

Still, Skyler's hoping to get to go home soon.

"We're just a super strong family," says Tom. "So when you can't be there to comfort them, that's difficult."

Even so, they all understand and respect the temporary restrictions on visitation.

"It hurts, but it's for a reason," says Tom.

About Roz Hutchinson

Roz Hutchinson is a Wichita wife, mother and chief spoiler of six grandkids and three Chihuahuas, a die-hard women's basketball fan, and director of Communications and Public Relations for Ascension Via Christi.