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Patient and wife reunite at Marian extended Care after more than 7 months apart during pandemic


SANTA MARIA, Calif. - After seven months, Marian Regional Medical Center Extended Care Center reopened visitation for residents.

Many of the patients at the Extended Care Center have not seen loved ones since the start of the pandemic in March.

Before the pandemic started, Phyllis Sabo would visit her husband James at the care center every chance she could, “Each Friday when I worked at Marian Cancer Center I would stop here at 11 o’clock to see him before my shift began,” until March 13th when the pandemic hit.

“It was Friday the 13th. I came at my usual time at 11. At 4 o’clock when I came I was immediately stopped at the front door and they said absolutely no visitors. We’ve had a shut down,” said Phyllis.

For more than half a year, Phyllis and her daughter Deborah could not see James at the care center.

No in-person visits, no face-to-face chats.

“I was devastated. I was scheduled to see him that weekend and I didn’t even get my visit. And my mom had called me and told me that it was shut down. And I thought she was joking,” said Deborah.

Both Phyllis and Debrah were worried about being apart from James for so long.

“Well because he’s a long-term patient here, I was concerned about his well-being, mental and physical,” said Phyllis.

“It felt hopeless that we were never gonna see him again you know. I really thought that we were never going to see him again,” said Deborah.

But after seven months, the care center reopened to visitors.

“The first time, I had tears in my eyes when I saw him, because he looked good. He looked healthy. He was happy to see me. And I was relieved that he was looking so well,” said Phyllis.

The care center is currently allowing one visitor per week by appointment in a special area following all health protocols.

“So with our set-up that we have here, they can actually hold hands and touch, and that is so important,” said Senior Director Debbie Mockler-Young at Marian Extended Care Center. "This is a skilled facility. We are a distinct part of Marian Regional Medical Center. Therefore, everyone who comes anywhere close to my patients must be screened.”

While the couple stayed in touch through phone calls and FaceTime, Phyllis says nothing’s greater than actually being with her loved one, once again. "I put Jim in God’s hands as well as myself. So that’s how I’ve survived.”

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Patricia Martellotti

Patricia Martellotti is a reporter for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Patricia, click here.


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