Nurse uses personal phone to make sure dying man has final conversation with wife, daughter


DETROIT, Mich. (CNN) – One of the saddest things about COVID-19 is that it leaves patients to die alone. CNN’s Ryan Young spoke with one Detroit woman about her struggles to say goodbye to her dying husband.

Marini Smith hasn’t left her home since she tested positive for the same coronavirus that killed her husband, Rayshone Smith. In the last three weeks, Smith says she, her father and her brother have all tested positive, meaning she had to stay home and quarantine, rather than attend her husband’s funeral. She watched through cell phone footage instead.

“I had to make the executive decision to keep myself and my daughter home,” Smith said.

Smith’s husband had flu-like symptoms and an extremely high fever. On March 16, he went to the hospital. It would be the last day he would see his family in person.

“They were like ‘you can’t be here, you can’t be here,’ and they sent my daughter and I out,” Smith said. “We were sitting in the car asleep, waiting to hear from him and he said ‘baby, they’re going to admit me.'”

Smith’s husband stayed in the hospital for one week before he died. A worried nurse made sure he spoke to his family one last time, since Smith and her daughter were not allowed into the hospital.

“The nurse felt so bad for my daughter [that] she used her personal phone and Facetime, which I thought was really, really nice,” Smith said. “So, she let us speak with them, and I just told him, you know, I asked was he scared? He said ‘yeah.’ My husband, everybody knows my husband, he’s not afraid of anything. But, he was very, very scared.”

The speed of the deadly and highly contagious coronavirus is leaving families like Smith’s holding unexpected and under-attended funerals at a frightening pace. At Major Clora’s funeral home in Detroit, no more than 10 immediate family members can pay their respects in person.

“Just receiving so many death calls at once you know, this week has been one of the most overwhelming weeks that I’ve ever had in my career,” Clora said.

Smith and her daughter are keeping their other family members safe by not grieving at the funeral, but they are still waiting to say their last goodbyes.

“I promised her, when this is all over, we’re going somewhere and we’re going to scream and cry and hold each other, and we’re going to visit our dad,” Smith said.

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