By Michael Daly: For More Info, Go Here…
Here was love in the time of COVID-19.
Love that roused Anita Thomas as if by miracle from the depths of advanced Alzheimer’s disease to comfort her husband of 61 years as he fell victim to the virus.
Anita began to suffer from an aggressive form of Alzhimer’s disease.
Love saw Bill join her when she got to where she had to move into the Bristal assisted-living facility in East Northport. She could no longer speak in sentences. Her eyes would glimmer with a thought that would be lost before it became words.
“You’d see her having an idea,” Peter said. “But then it would be gone. She couldn’t capture anything.”
“My dad would come pick her up at the end of the day and all was well,” Peter said. “Then came the lockdown.”
As the pandemic became an increasing threat in mid-March, 82-year-old Bill and 80-year-old Anita were confined to their unit. Daughter Katherine, 58, lived nearby, but she could no longer visit. The best she could do was wave from the parking lot to their third-floor window and call numerous times a day on FaceTime.
The confinement was clearly having an effect on Bill. Katherine became alarmed when he failed to open his eyes at the start of one call. She asked if he was asleep. He made a sudden plea that she recounted to Peter.
“He said, ‘You got to get me out of here or I’ll be dead before the weekend,’” Peter, 56, later reported.
Peter, a health-care attorney in Washington, D.C., called the assisted living facility.
“I asked, ‘How many people actually died from this thing at your assisted facility?’” he recalled. “She kind of hemmed and hawed and said, ‘Nine.’ I said, ‘Nine? You got to be kidding me. How are you not telling me this?’”
On April 23, Katherine got their parents out of the facility and Peter joined them at the house. Anita tested negative for COVID-19, but Bill tested positive. He quickly went from sick to sicker but refused to go to the hospital.
“He had always envisioned this idyllic death at his home, surrounded by his children, slipping off into the next world listening to Mozart,” Pete reported.
Pete and Katherine tried repeatedly to get home health care. People agreed to come, but Peter figures they must have been scared off by COVID-19 in the house.
“They agreed early in the day and thought about it and decided not to come,” Peter said.
“We were on our own,” Katherine said.
Peter and Katherine did their determined best as the virus proceeded to do its diabolical worst.
Then came a seeming miracle of love in the time of COVID-19. Anita suddenly became mentally present as she had not been in a year.
“She was speaking full sentences. She was very loving, she was telling my dad like 15 times a day how much she loved him, holding his hand and laying next to him,” Peter recalled.
Peter and Katherine realized there was no way to explain social distancing to their mother in these circumstances. And they were not about to pull her away.
After six days, Peter and Katherine decided that the time had come to move their father to a hospice. Anita, of course, came with him.
That night, 135 people joined in a Zoom prayer vigil.
Bill was set at ease by the knowledge that Katherine had arranged for a dying request regarding the house.
“He wanted the deck power-washed,” Katherine recalled.
Bill died the following day, May 1. Anita spoke one more full sentence.
“She said, ‘They took my husband,’” Peter recalled.
She had given her absolute, astonishing all.
“She spent everything she had the last week,” Peter remembered. “She was with him, being supportive and loving. And as soon as my dad passed, she went straight downhill.”
He added, “She knew and that precipitated her demise.”
Anita tested positive and died six days later, on May 7, without ever leaving the hospice. The virus was as cruel to her as it had been to Bill.