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Thomasville family says an in-person visit is the reason 79-year-old relative is still alive

Trina Williams was told she could finally visit her grandmother in person because she didn't have much time to live. Turns out that visit may have saved her life.

THOMASVILLE, N.C. — Trina Williams's face lights up when she talks about her grandmother. Maybe she gets it from the 79-year old who almost always seems to be smiling no matter the circumstance.

“I just love her, she is one tough lady,” Trina Williams said.

Hazel Williams has been battling cancer for more than a year and just recently survived COVID-19. Williams spent almost three weeks in quarantine at Pine Ridge Rehabilitation in Thomasville.

“She feels like the least important person in the world because she has been in isolation,” Trina Williams said.

Hazel Williams is now back in her room at the rehabilitation center, but the virus and cancer have taken a toll on her body. A couple of weeks ago the family was notified that Hazel Williams may not have much longer to live.

“We were lucky enough that we could go (inside the facility) to see her. We had to dress head to toe in suits like a COVID nurse,” Trina Williams said.

State guidelines prohibit in-person visits at congregate homes such as a skilled nursing rehabilitation center unless the medical director determines the resident is near the end of life. 

A few days after the visit with family Williams' health started to improve. The family said her oxygen levels and other vitals were much better following the visit. It is the first time in more than six months that the family could sit with her and hold her hand.

“My heart was so full when I was able to sit beside her,” Trina Williams said.

The joy of seeing and sitting with her grandmother in person and the improved health that followed is tempered by the reality that the facility may soon stop allowing the family to come inside and sit with Williams.

If the medical director determines Williams' health has improved to the point, she is no longer at risk of dying, the family will be asked to only visit from the bedroom window. Even in-person outdoor visits are limited unless the facility has gone four weeks without a positive case.

“We certainly don’t want to get anyone sick by visiting,” Trina Williams said.

Tonya Taylor hasn’t been able to sit and visit with her mom since March. Her mom is at Oak Forest Health and Rehabilitation in Winston-Salem.

“She just wants someone to talk to her to keep her mind off things,” Taylor said.

The only way Taylor can see her mom is through a window. Before restrictions went into effect she would visit her mom several days a week often just sitting with her watching television or talking.

“The disconnect with family is killing the patients, they need love in their life,” Taylor said.

Earlier On Tuesday the governor announced plans for Phase 3 but it does not include any changes at this time related to skilled nursing facilities.

For more information, you can go to NCDHHS

The governor’s office sent us an email providing some clarification for families hoping to resume in-person visits. The email states in part: "We’re extending the secretarial order for a short period of time while we get clarity from CMS. Facilities that meet the minimum requirements (Secretarial Order 3, Section II, A) may allow outdoor visitation. Section B and C go over the requirements and the visitation guidelines

As for Williams, she is thankful her grandmother is doing better but fears her days of in-person visits may be ending soon.