Marcella Goheen hasn’t been able to touch her husband since March, with COVID keeping her from entering his nursing home in Washington Heights.
She talks to him outside his window, and chats on FaceTime. But the separation is breaking both of their hearts.
“Everyday my husband breaks down in tears,” Goheen said. “He’s despondent, he’s depressed. I get him on video chats every day. He giggles here and there when I make noises and sing songs.”
For 66-year-old Bobby Viteri, the lack of contact with his wife could be more than emotionally draining: It could be a death sentence.
That’s because he suffers from a rare degenerative disorder similar to lukadystrophy, leaving him essentially unable to move or talk.
Before COVID, Goheen gave him ground-breaking therapies to stimulate his neuropathways – and prolong his life. But now she can’t do any of that, and she said the nursing home isn’t able to either.
“He’ll look around to see if I’m in the room. I’m not in the room. And I have to say that I’m not in the room, I’m in a screen, I’m gonna get in there soon. I promise you. I haven’t left you … I’ll never leave you,” Goheen said.
According to Goheen, Viteri actually already contracted COVID back in May and recovered. She said she gets tested for COVID multiple times a week and has never received a positive result, which she believes should allow her safe entry into the building.
The Isabella Center for Rehab and Nursing Care still won’t allow her in as part of their strict COVID protocols. That has led to Goheen filing a lawsuit against the center, under compassionate care guidelines.
“It’s hard to put in clinical terms the suffering of someone who cannot talk. But I know my husband’s thoughts,” Goheen said.
The nursing home wouldn’t comment on this specific situation, but said in a statement “We are trying to ensure that family visits are as meaningful as possible and so we offer in-person visits, window visits, video chats and phone calls – consistent with DOH guidelines.”
Goheen said she just wants to be there for Viteri and give her husband the best chance possible to prolong his life, and make sure he knows he’s not alone.
“I’m always in your heart, mind and soul. And you are in mine and I’m getting in there,” Goheen said to Viteri over a video call.