He is an old man with a stooped back, wearing tan work pants and shirt with his name on the right breast and his company’s name on the left. He has gotten out of his old Pontiac, and wearing a face mask, walks toward us as we come out of the dialysis center with an old woman on our stretcher. He nods to us respectfully, and then looks at the woman and says, “Pearl, Pearl, it’s your husband. I love you, Pearl.”
She looks at him and says nothing. Her eyes squint, trying to recognize him. “Are you doing okay? I just wanted to say hi and tell you I love. I love you, Pearl.”
We see what is happening. There are no visitors at the nursing home. This is how he gets to see his wife.
“Take your time,” I say.
“I don’t want to hold you.”
He focuses again on his wife, “You look pretty today,” he says. “I just wanted to say, hi. It’s me–George, your husband. I love you Pearl.”
“Hello,” she says.
“Are you doing okay? You look nice. Pearl.”
“I’m doing okay,” she says.
“That’s good. That’s good.”
He nods to us again, and then steps back as we lift her into the back of the ambulance.
When we get to the nursing home, he is there again, and we also stop again to let him have a few more words with her. “I love you, Pearl,” he says. I’ll see you again on Friday.”
“I’m doing okay,” she says. “Bye.”
And we take her inside.
COVID -19 has been terrible for nursing home patients. Sixty-three percent of all COVID-19 deaths in Connecticut have been in skilled nursing facilities. Maybe they should have shut down visiting earlier, and clearly they had to be draconian at first to get a handle on the epidemic, but it seems that there must be a better way than to not allow families to see each other. I’m hoping that in this lull we seem to find ourselves in, we can better prepare to keep our oldest citizens safe, physically and emotionally. I hope we can find safe ways for families to be together and remind each other of the love that binds them.