COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Despite rising vaccination numbers, visitor restrictions remain in place for those suffering from COVID-19.
And with loved ones dying alone in the hospital, experts say it’s not yet safe enough to lift restrictions as families struggle to cope with not having the chance to say goodbye.
“Probably just that, ‘It’s okay,’ and ‘I’m sorry this is the way you have to go, but we all love you and we’re all here for you,'” says Gabby Sasso fighting back tears.
Sasso was contemplating what she would have said had she been able to visit her grandfather at his hospital bedside.
“He was sick, and he was going through something and wasn’t able to have anyone by his side that he even knew,” Sasso describes of his lonely battle.
Sasso’s grandfather was at an assisted living facility when he contracted COVID-19 last May.
He was rushed to the hospital and died just two days later.
Neither Sasso nor any of her family were allowed to visit him while he was in the hospital.
Sasso’s aunt, and her grandfather’s daughter, was forced to say goodbye through the nursing home window before he was taken away in an ambulance.
“Yeah, I feel like if he saw us, or if somebody was holding his hand that he knew, maybe he’d be like, ‘Okay, I need to fight for them,'” admits Sasso, when asked if she believes her grandfather would have been able to pull through if he could have seen his family in the hospital.
While her grandfather’s nurse showed him a picture of his family as he took his last breaths, local experts say the impact isn’t the same.
“That makes me sad. I can empathize with that. COVID-19 has really brought a lot of pain and suffering to how we deliver healthcare,” admits OhioHealth’s Dr. Joseph Gastaldo.
In the United States, more than half-a-million people have died from COVID-19.
And for those most critically ill, experts say the pandemic has changed the patient experience for the worse.
“Having the family involvement in real-time is by far the way to go, and the experience is not the same at all doing it through FaceTime or Skype,” Gastaldo adds.
Dr. Gastaldo says as more people get vaccinated, verifying which visitors are vaccinated is becoming an increasing challenge.
“We have to have more of an electronic way of doing it, and a way that cannot be forged,” says Gastaldo of issues with fake vaccination cards.
But he warns the vaccine is still the key to easing those restrictions.
“I do see the policies changing to take away those more painful experiences so we can put the patient front-and-center,” Gastaldo encourages.
A vaccination goal has not yet been discussed, but Dr. Gastaldo says Central Ohio’s major healthcare systems are continuing to have discussions about when that guidance could change.
Though for some families still searching for closure, it will be too late.
“I would have just liked to say one more thing, so he knew I loved him,” Sasso stresses.