Despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s shutdowns in response to the Chinese coronavirus, a Central Texan still caught the virus in a nursing home and later died of a heart attack. Now, the same mandates that failed to protect him are keeping his widow separated from her daughter and grandkids—forcing them all to suffer again.
“My dad passed away with the virus,” Marcy Renneberg told Texas Scorecard over the phone. Her voice wavered with emotion as she recalled how the coronavirus, and Abbott’s mandates, hurt her and her family.
For two and a half years, Marcy’s father and mother have lived in a nursing home in the Austin suburb of Round Rock. Marcy was able to freely visit them—until the virus and Abbott’s mandates.
“They were locked up for four months,” she said, recalling how the mandates isolated people in nursing homes and other care facilities from their loved ones and the outside world—all done in the hopes of protecting them from the virus. “Lo and behold, the nursing home where they were at came down with coronavirus cases.”
“My dad, in the middle of July, got sent to the hospital with a 102 fever and tested positive for the virus,” Marcy recalled. Her father was moved from the nursing home to the Delphi Austin hospital, leaving his beloved wife behind in the nursing home. “He ended up passing away on July 22.”
An autopsy revealed he died from a massive heart attack.
Marcy wasn’t able to be with her father during his last days, and it wasn’t until he demanded to speak with her that they were connected virtually through a FaceTime video chat.
“You could tell that he wasn’t right,” Marcy said. “I think that the virus must have affected his mind, because it’s always been very lucid, very cognizant.”
She pressed for her father to be treated with hydroxychloroquine or an inhaled steroid that she heard other doctors were using to treat the virus. The hospital refused, citing concerns with his heart with the former, and of making the virus airborne with the latter.
“They gave him steroids intravenously, through the IV. And the second time I saw him on FaceTime, he looked so awful,” she recalled. “His face looked so swollen up. I’m sure it’s from all of those steroids.”
She was offered the chance to either be with her dad in his final moments, or with her mother in the nursing home. She knew she couldn’t do both.
“It’s not like I had to talk to anybody about that. I just knew that was something I could not do,” she recalled.
Marcy chose to sacrifice being with her dad to instead be with her mom, so her mother could say goodbye to her husband over the phone.
“They were very nice to let me in to let my mom on the phone and tell my dad goodbye, even though he was unconscious.”
Her father died without his family.
Marcy was allowed to be with her mom for a few days, but when Marcy stayed home for two days because she was sick, the same mandates that walled her away from her parents came back into play.
“On Monday, when I tried to come back up there, they told me I couldn’t come back in,” she said. “They told me that they had people that were dying from COVID, actively.”
Now only able to visit her mom from behind a window, Marcy’s family is in pain again.
“The dementia’s worse,” she said about her mother, with frustration and sadness filling her voice. “I see her through the window every day, and I try to talk with her, and she gets confused and hangs the phone up.”
“I get ready to go, and she cries. She doesn’t want me to leave, so I stand out there in the heat for another half an hour.”
In addition to concerns about her mother’s mental state, Marcy is also worried about her physical health.
“My mom is not eating well.”
If she could, Marcy would have her mother live with her, but that’s not an option. Even though she’s losing weight, she’s over 250 pounds and can’t walk.
“She has bed sores already because she doesn’t get up,” Marcy said. “She’s had chronic pain for years, so it’s very painful for her to get up and get in a wheelchair to begin with, let alone sit outside for a visitation with me.”
Marcy said what her mother needs is to be with her family.
“I’ve talked to the nursing home, and I’ve asked for a plan of action for when I can be with my mother because of what the Health and Human Services Commission put out about this so-called Phase 1 thing they can apply for,” she said. “[Phase 1 is] if they don’t have any positive virus patients for two weeks, they can apply to … have outdoor visits with a resident. And there’s some other things you can possibly do … if they’re imminent or dying, you can go be with them.”
For Marcy’s family, this plan is unacceptable.
“That’s something that’s going to be impossible to achieve,” she said. “I was told yesterday they have five positive residents still, that they’d have to wait two more weeks before they can say they don’t have the virus.”
“Two more weeks, two more weeks. That’s all we heard since this whole lockdown began.”
As time passes, the pain caused by these mandates continues to grow.
“I’m watching my daughter’s heart be broken. I’m watching my mother’s heart be broken. And we can’t be comforted because of [Abbott’s] unreasonable mandates that are hurting,” Marcy lamented. “He has made the cure worse than the disease.”
“Governor Abbott, in my opinion, needs to be like 40 other states who have given family members, one specific family member, what they call ‘caregiver status,’” she adds. “That means you can actually go in and be the caregiver to your parent.”
Marcy’s quick to say she doesn’t blame the nursing home staff, pointing out that they’re understaffed and exhausted. They’ve even told her they want her to be allowed inside the building with her mother.
“’We want you in … we want you guys in,’” Marcy recalled from a conversation she had with a member of the staff. “’It’s just that the people, the higher-ups that are making these rules, don’t know how it’s affecting us. It’s cruel.’”
When asked what message she would give Abbott, Marcy was straight to the point.
“I wish that he could live a day in my mother’s shoes,” she said. “I wish that he could put himself in my mother’s position.”
“It’s wrong to keep us from the people that we have devoted ourselves to taking care of and loving. He’s ripped out our hearts,” Marcy implored. “He’s hurting Texas so bad.”
To top it off, Marcy feels abandoned by her elected officials. “I’ve written [to Abbott] through his Facebook, through his website. I’ve written to other representatives and senators. No response.”
If you or anyone you know has had a similar experience from government mandates in response to the coronavirus, we’d like to hear from you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.