The night Miguel Moran died from complications of the coronavirus, his 23-year-old son and four other family members put on their face masks and rushed to a suburban New York hospital to be at his bedside.
One by one, they donned a hospital-issued plastic gown, a head covering and gloves. They spent a few minutes each saying an emotional farewell to the lifeless body of the 56-year-old immigrant from El Salvador, a Pentecostal church goer who washed trucks to provide for his family.
His only son, Daniel Moran, said a bedside prayer at St. Joseph Hospital on Long Island. He squeezed his dead father’s hand.
“One day we’ll join you in heaven,” he cried.
Sixteen days later, father and son were buried together.
Miguel Moran died of acute respiratory failure from Covid-19 on April 16, according to his death certificate. Eight days after praying over his father’s body, Daniel himself was dead from the disease.
The elder Moran’s wife and daughter, who also lived with him and visited the hospital the night he died, later tested positive for the coronavirus – as did two other family members who were also in the room that night.
The family’s plight highlights the pandemic’s many challenges. The wrenching separations of dying patients and loved ones who would normally be at their side as they drew their last breaths. Overburdened health care systems balancing that with mandates to protect visitors and staff. Hospitals struggling with access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
“It’s incredibly heartbreaking this happened in the first place,” said Dr. Cassandra Pierre, medical director of public health programs at Boston Medical Center. “But also that you have to hold your family member or you won’t even get the opportunity to do that without having PPE in place is just so unnatural. This is where we are right now to continue to keep people safe.”
The extraordinary measures to stop the contagion have touched the seriously ill, their vulnerable families and overtaxed hospital personnel.
“I really feel for that family,” Pierre said. “I feel for the health care center who’s trying to accommodate them. It’s such a weird time where you can’t even grieve appropriately for your family members.”
The situation is ‘painful for all concerned’
Hospitals across the country have suspended most visits. Many critically ill patients have been deprived the comfort of a familiar face in their final moments. Grieving happens from afar. Visitation policies are left to hospital administrators.