“We had a patient come in who shortly afterward passed away, and I had to tell his two sons that their father had just died,” he said. “We were standing in the hallway with masks on. And I had to tell them, ‘If that’s not bad enough, you won’t be able to see your father.’ That was horrible. That was an experience I will never forget.”
By contrast, Dr. Oster said, watching a relative at a patient’s side “gives me some sense of comfort — not full comfort, because it’s not as it should be, but some sense of comfort that we did our best to ensure the patient didn’t die completely alone.”
Dr. Oster said there could well be some benefits to patients from compassionate family visits, though he was cautious. “Ask me that,” he said, “if it turns out, by some stroke of grace of God, that one of these patients actually rallies.”
But Rinat Zita-Dishlo is convinced of the benefits.
On Thursday, her two siblings visited their mother, Batsheva Zita, 74, after the hospital let them know she was rapidly failing.
On Sunday, her mother was still holding on, and the hospital bent its rules to give Ms. Zita-Dishlo, 41, her own chance to say goodbye.
That is not exactly the message she delivered, however.
“You are not alone, we are here,” Ms. Zita-Dishlo said through tears, bending over her mother’s hospital bed and caressing her face with a gloved hand. “Mom, my life, my beauty — fight, be strong. We’re here for you. Always.”