Can you imagine not being able to give a sick parent or a close friend one final hug before they pass away?
Or what if you were standing just feet away from a relative, but the only way to comfort them was on Facetime or Zoom?
Unfortunately, this has become the new reality for Georgians as hospitals continue to ban visitors to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But as Channel 2′s Michael Seiden reports, many people are now calling on hospitals to change their policies and come up with a plan.
“I did a lot of good things in life, and it’s just hard to go the way I’m going,” patient Mark Robinson said.
Across the state, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing hospital patients like Robinson to deal with the unthinkable.
The 48-year-old husband and father of four doesn’t have the virus, but he’s battling congestive heart failure. He fears he may die alone in the hospital without his wife there to comfort him.
“I married her at 16 years old. Needed a permission slip to marry and we’ve been married for 32 years faithfully all the way through," Robinson said. “It’s so unfair that I’m sitting, going like I’m going, and I can’t see my wife at the last moment.”
- Whistleblower: Georgia immigration facility is COVID-19 hotbed
- Some Georgians remain skeptical about whether COVID-19 vaccine this year would be safe
Right now, Robinson’s only hope of survival lies in a major operation. Doctors are trying to implant a heart pump, but the procedure is too dangerous.
“We don’t know right this second what’s going to happen, but as of right now, I will not survive the surgery," he told Seiden.
Robinson has spent the last three weeks in the intensive care unit at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta. He said it’s hard to stay positive when you don’t have family by your side.
“Depression was not something I was used to and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it just hit me hard.”
Hospitals in metro Atlanta have enforced a no visitor policy as part of their safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Seiden reached out to Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital and received the following statement:
“Emory Healthcare continues to remain vigilant during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the safest care environment possible for our patients, staff and physicians. As a result, Emory Healthcare has a no visitor policy, with few exceptions, in place at its hospitals and clinics. We know these visitation restrictions are challenging and difficult for families, patients and their care teams. To better support, we have instituted virtual visits, supported by donated tablets, to help patients and their loved ones to connect. Because of federal privacy laws, we cannot comment on specific patient cases.”
Hospitals that have no visitor policies do have some exceptions that include a mother giving birth and for patients under the age of 18.
Robinson’s wife Cheryl said she is trying to remain positive. But the thought of not being able to share one more hug, one more kiss, one more laugh with her soulmate of 32 years is gut-wrenching.
“Emotionally it is draining me to the point I can’t be there for him when he’s upset and crying," she said. “He’s scared. He’s scared all the time . It’s the worst feeling.”
Mark and Cheryl Robinson are hoping hospital officials will hear their pleas before it’s too late.
“Not to be able to give her a hug and a kiss if anything happens,” Mark said.
“What would they do if it was their spouse? How would they feel if they weren’t allowed to see their spouse on their possible last day? You have to have compassion for people and I know there’s exceptions. I know they can make exceptions,” Cheryl said.