A Pennsylvania man dying of the coronavirus was forced to say his final goodbyes to relatives via FaceTime, according to a report.
Cecil “Mac” Hargrove, 84, died Friday at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where he was admitted with difficulty breathing just 17 hours earlier. His son, Blake, was told flatly by hospital staffers that no visitors would be allowed, PennLive.com reports.
“They were literally hearing nothing of it,” Blake Hargrove, a professor of management at Shippensburg University, told the outlet. “It wasn’t that they were ugly, but there was no negotiation.”
A doctor later told Hargrove as he waited outside the hospital that his father — who had previously been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — had viral pneumonia. The results of Cecil Hargrove’s COVID-19 test results weren’t ready yet, but he needed to be put on a ventilator, a doctor said.
However, Hargrove shot down that plan, insisting his father would not want to be kept alive on a ventilator if he had contracted the coronavirus, potentially putting him at risk of being unable to speak to relatives before dying.
He said he then confirmed those wishes with his father by phone before a test confirmed the 84-year-old had COVID-19, PennLive.com reports.
Staffers at the hospital later gave an iPad to the former real estate investor, who used FaceTime to say his last goodbyes to relatives, including his 11 grandchildren.
“All of his grandchildren were able to tell him they loved him and he was able to tell them he loved them,” Blake Hargrove said. “That’s a blessing.”
Cecil Hargrove’s wife of 63 years, Katherine, was allowed a solitary visit prior to her husband’s death. She agreed with his decision against a ventilator, saying they had previously discussed end-of-life options.
“If we could not have a highly reasonable chance of returning to our previous capabilities, we did not want to live,” she told PennLive.com. “When I got to the hospital and saw my husband, I knew we had made the right decision.”
The experience should serve as a warning to anyone whose relative is hospitalized with the coronavirus to be prepared for the possibility of not seeing their loved one again, Blake Hargrove said.
“You lose control to the health care providers,” he said.
Hargrove believes his father picked up the virus during a March 14 flight from Spain to New York, where officials at John F. Kennedy Airport told his parents to self-quarantine. The pair traveled to Spain on March 6 to visit their son, who was there as a Fulbright scholar, he said.
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“This trip was important to him,” he said. “It was not something he was going to miss.”
Due to Pennsylvania’s ban on large gatherings, it’s unclear when funeral services will be held for Cecil Hargrove. Relatives hope to eventually host a service in Dallas, where he and his wife lived part-time, PennLive.com reports.
A hospital spokeswoman, meanwhile, said COVID-19 patients are generally barred from having visitors due to infection risk.
“However, in the case of patients who are end-of-life, we do make exceptions for visitation and work diligently to involve the family in alternative means of contact so that they may be supportive of their loved one and mitigate exposure of multiple family members,” spokeswoman Barbara Schindo told PennLive.com.