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My 88 year old mother was diagnosed with COVID on April 10-early in the pandemic. She had myelodisplastic syndrome, so she was required to immediately go to the hospital. She had this illness for 2 decades, and it was completely in control prior to COVID. I will never forget the feeling I had as I gave her a good-bye hug and kiss, and watched her get loaded in the ambulance. I thought to myself, “Oh my God, I just sent my mother off to die in a hospital all alone!” The pain I experienced as I watched the ambulance roll off was just indescribable. The rest of us in the house also had COVID, but were unable to get tested. My daughter and I were very sick, my husband had minor symptoms. We have had antibody tests months later. My mother was in the hospital for 2 weeks. She had a serious hearing deficit and wore 2 hearing aids. I sent a dry erase board with markers and a note explaining her hearing deficiency with her, and tried to stress that she relied on reading lips which was impossible due to PPE. After hearing nothing for a couple of hours, I called the ER to inquire. The nurse was quite annoyed with her and wanted to “know what her problem was!”, and quite disgusted with me that I had sent an old lady with dementia to the hospital by herself. Tried to forgive her rudeness, and patiently explained that I had followed the directions provided by the PCP, and explained about her hearing issues. The nurse became more polite and told me that they were very busy and would get to my mother soon. I asked her to go to Mom’s room, find the board and write a message explaining the situation to her. Later that night my mother called me and told me she was in a room. My mother was in the hospital for 2 weeks. As her illness worsened, she was unable to use her cellphone, and we were unable to communicate with her. The nursing staff was too busy to help her with her phone, and tried to minimize the number of times they entered her room due to shortages of PPE. The night before she died, the hospital arranged a video connection so she could see and speak to each of her children one last time. That was the most difficult conversation I ever had. They disconnected her oxygen and provided comfort measures the next day, and she died very early the next morning. A nurse was with her, and told me that my mother had a very peaceful and beautiful passing. That was a blessing. Since she passed April 24, early in the pandemic, we did not have a funeral. Relatives are scattered throughout the US, and travel restrictions, stay at home orders, and business closings made it impossible. 5 months later, we still have not had a service, and we don’t know when it will be possible.

Susan Bonsey Ramsay, Maine

Elder woman on a couch sitting