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“I couldn’t hold her hand.”

The silhouette of a hand against a foggy window.
By Carolyn

United States

[Read about this story from the perspective of Jacqui, the patient, here.]

My sister [Jacqui] is incredibly youthful, healthy and strong, so when she became fevered and exhibited other flu-like symptoms, I right away feared COVID-19, but I also believed her journey through the virus would be short-lived. When her symptoms worsened, I was relieved that her PCP sent her to the hospital. Still, I NEVER entertained the thought that her progress would be anything but towards health.

During the first few days of her hospitalization, we spoke on the phone or FaceTimed [video chatted] often. She seemed disoriented, which I assumed to be from fever and solitude. She began to hallucinate and became paranoid. It did not occur to me that her hallucinations and fears were due to the ravaging effects of COVID-19 (this information had not yet emerged). When I became unable to reach her by cell phone, I called the hospital; this is where my nightmare truly began. I was told that Jacqui’s left lung had collapsed and that she had been put on a ventilator. I was asked if I would want her to be resuscitated and if she had a DNR [do-not-resuscitate order]. I believed, in that moment, that I would lose my one and only sister. I couldn’t be with her, I couldn’t hold her hand. I couldn’t tell her that she would be all right, that she should hold on or let go or tell her that I loved her and that I was there for her. She was all alone in this nightmare and for the first time in my life as her older sister I could not be there for her. All I could do was attach a virtual umbilical cord between me and the doctors and nurses who courageously and lovingly saved her life.

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