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“I told him I loved him and that I couldn't stay.”

A black and white photo of a single rose blooming against a black background.
By Wanda Acosta

Mayaguez, PR
United States

I had to place my 86-year-old husband in a care facility after I experienced a life-threatening event that left me unable to walk or care for myself for three months. I would always visit after I left work for at least half an hour; visits ended at 4:30 PM. When the pandemic started last year, family was banned from visiting for all the known reasons. We could only talk over the phone; we could not [video chat] so we couldn't see each other. I promised I would never leave him alone as long as I lived.

On November 6, 2020, he aspirated and developed pneumonia. I was able to stay with him at the hospital since he was unable to care for himself. He had a bad fall in 2012, had a CVA [cerebrovascular accident or stroke], and had been bedridden since then. He was discharged and [then] had to be readmitted due to a persistent fever and lethargy.

He was septic and was intubated on the second day of his admittance to the hospital. I was not allowed to visit in ICU [intensive care unit] and spoke daily with the physician. On December 2, he took a turn for the worst; the doctor allowed me to see him but I could not touch him.... I told him I loved him and that I couldn't stay. He died on December 4, 2020, three days short of his 90th birthday. He died alone, without a loved one beside him.

I am a nurse and when I worked on the ward and knew a patient was in the process of dying and was a no code, I would sit by [their] side and hold their hand until they passed. No one should die alone, ever. It still hurts to know that COVID robbed me of being with him and forced him to be alone in such a painful moment surrounded by machines, noise, and none of his family members.

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