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Daughter listens for hours while father dies alone



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Abby Adair Reinhard clutched his iPhone tighter to his ear, trying to hear the gentle rhythm of his father’s breathing.

In. Outside. In. Outside.

Eight miles away, in a hospital bed in Rochester, New York, his father was dying.

At first, his breaths were a constant white noise that every other day would melt into the background.Over the hours, his breathing became more difficult. Tortured. Heavy mucus.

Reinhard – a mother, wife and daughter – would spend the next day and a half listening to his father’s death, praying that he could hear his voice. Moment after moment, she detailed these agonizing hours in a heartbreaking article on Facebook.

The terror I felt today is unlike anything I have ever experienced, and I can only imagine how difficult it was for you, Dad. I am very sorry that you are going through this nightmare.

Don Adair, 76, was the father of four and a grandfather of five. A retired family-loving lawyer who had traveled with them to Europe sat on the floor to open the Christmas presents, smiled widely at their diplomas and bounced them on his lap.

Abby Adair Reinhard during her marriage to her father, Donald Adair. He has lived in the Rochester area all of his life, except when he was at university and law school. (Photo: Abby Adair Reinhard photo document.)

Now he was alone in a bed, isolated from other patients at Highland Hospital. He had fallen home a few days earlier and hospital staff had helped him with a minor infection.

No problem, Reinhard thought at first. Her father, her rock, never got sick.

Then he developed a fever and a cough. Coronavirus.

Reinhard, 41, called his brother, Tom, in Texas. It was late April 4. They wondered if an asymptomatic patient in the hospital had passed the infection. They explained how good the prognosis was, how minor his symptoms were.

It’s a conversation that so many Americans are having now, worrying late at night, consulting doctors, and browsing the Internet for signs of hope, looking at the statistics that say most people will never get really sick .

“He was very strong physically. I’m sure he’ll be fine, that’s what I told myself, “she said. “We went to bed thinking, it is likely that he is fine. “

Donald Adair and his grandson, Leo, in a photo taken in 2013 when Leo was six months old. (Photo: document from Abby Adair Reinhard.)

Her husband made French toast to the children. They watched the Palm Sunday online services, where the pastor urged them to approach uncertainty with faith, not fear.

Then came the call. A Highland nurse said things Reinhard was trying to understand: “Aspiration … deterioration … suffering … not much time.” “

Now the nurse put Adair on the phone. He couldn’t speak, but he could still listen.

As he walked through his bathroom, Reinhard struggled to catch his breath, to hide his sobs from his three children. Listen. Speak.

I love you, “she said.

” Thank you. “

” I am sorry. “

” I forgive you. “

You settled in between coughs and I searched my heart for what to say.

I talked about our precious moments by the lake. I remembered that you were playing your guitar around the campfire and I clung to this image as if it were my saving grace.

The words of those old campfire songs seemed so appropriate now– “Milk and honey on the other side” and “He has the whole world in his hands. “

The laundry overflowed from the basket in the corner. She spoke, listened, prayed. She felt like part of her was outside of her own body. It was too much to accept.

After half an hour, she realized that she could lecture in her siblings – Tom, Carrie in North Carolina and Emily in Denmark. They stayed on the phone for hours, singing more campfire songs, telling stories, remembering their childhood.

For the next few hours, our conversation with you will be one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Although we are each sitting in Dallas, Raleigh, Copenhagen or Rochester, we were together, unwrapping memories that we had stored for a long time. The lake, the Cape and our trip to Europe. Games, projects and important conversations. We also sang more campfire songs. I pray that you can hear everything.

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Donald Adair with three of his children, from left to right, Abby Adair Reinhard, Carrie Boulus and Tom Adair in a photo from 1985. (Photo: photo document by Abby Adair Reinhard.)

At one point Reinhard left the call to speak to the doctors. She threw a winter coat over her yoga pants and sweatshirt and headed outside.

It wasn’t cold, but it wasn’t hot.

Walking into her neighborhood, sobbing, she listened in her headphones while the doctors explained her prognosis: he was so far away, they told her, putting him on ventilation would only prolong the inevitable. Her lungs, destroyed by the infection, would probably never recover.

She read and reread her father’s living will. He was so strong and she wanted to hope. But she knew what he would like: pain relief only. No fan. No dialysis. No CPR. When she made the decision, the doctor seemed relieved.

She saw her neighbors and her neighbors saw her crying by the side of the road. Their first instinct was to kiss. They did not do it. They could not.

Having made up his mind, Reinhard returned home and called again in his father’s room. The nurses pressed the phone to her pillow so her children could hear her breathing.

As she listened to her breath, Reinhard sat down at a desk and started typing. She wanted to capture the experience, absorb it.

It’s so good to laugh and cry. To be connected to the phone with you and my brother and my sisters. To revive the images of us from previous years. It’s also good to hear you breathe. This rhythmic white noise is the background music of our call.

Sometimes his breathing was silent. Long seconds, a minute. She held her breath, fearing what the silence meant.

Breathe, dad. We need to hear you breathe.

Then, finally, he inhaled, and she let out a long grateful sigh.

I have never loved and enjoyed breathing as I like and enjoy breathing right now.

Evening fell and Reinhard and her husband put their children to bed. She tapped her feelings for long hours and fell asleep at her father’s breath.

Monday has come. Adair was still hooked. His breathing became more difficult, his lungs thick with mucus which came to define many cases of coronavirus. Reinhard compared the sound to someone using a straw in a cup of dough. She wondered: should she have pushed the doctors to put her on a ventilator?

My own chest is tightening now, I imagine your lungs filling up, as the virus infiltrates. You just moaned softly, and I don’t know if you’re trying to say that you love us, or if you’re in pain.

I pray that you can see angels behind your closed eyes. That you can feel their love and ours. That you can hear us on the other end. That you can feel the thrills of your soul even when your body is numb.

OK, here come some weak white noise flips. Thank God. I just said the Lord’s Prayer, in short bursts between my attempts to stifle my sobs so that my children cannot hear me. I feel the pressure of moans behind my eyes, as I moan like a dog, and wipe away the tears. I can feel it in my throat now too, the pressure.

Grief is a strange thing. It comes in unpredictable waves. At one point earlier, I felt slightly guilty because I felt good. And now here I am, pushing back against a huge wave of pain as it crests and I try to breathe through it. I breathe. You breathe. We are well.

The Adair family visits the Palace of Versailles in France on a family vacation. (Photo: document from Abby Adair Reinhard.)

The phone went silent. Ten minutes without sound.

You are back! The phone had slipped. Thank God. Now we hear short, shallow breaths each a miracle. You are here. We are here. With obvious relief, we tell you again how much we love you. Baby Skylar has hiccups on Carrie’s line. It’s life and it’s death. The newborn on the phone with the grandfather whom she will never meet.

We hear you, dad.

She could hear the nurses repositioning him. They were heroes, she thought, risking their lives for her comfort. “Good night, Don,” she heard. ” I will see you tomorrow. “

The tired brothers and sisters. The stories slowed down. Reinhard ate a slice of pizza. Her 8-year-old daughter Caroline appeared to ask if Grandpa Don sounded better. Reinhard told him, honestly, that he looked calmer.

” Yes! Said Caroline. “There have been many occasions. Then her smile faded. “And a lot of dead. “

I wonder how the coronavirus will shape my children and their generation? I am now thinking of what shaped you and your fellow Vietnamese boomers… a war against communism in a distant country. Today is the coronavirus … a war against droplets in the air all around us.

Reinhard and his siblings agreed to take a break. They had to take care of themselves, as their father would have liked. They fell asleep, but no one hung up.

Just after midnight, another call came in. She knew what it was. She prepared for this.

Faded away. You’re gone.

She had been online with him for almost 36 hours. If she had stayed an hour longer, she could have been with him when he died. Maybe he didn’t want his kids to hear him go.

If I’m being honest, maybe a part of me didn’t want to hear your last gasps.

She looked down at her iPhone, still connected to her hospital line.

“I love you, dad,” she said on the phone.

She stopped for a few moments. She pressed the red button to end the call.

Here is the pain again. So heavy.

First, she sent her email to friends and family. They shared it with others. This inspired her husband’s colleague to reach out to his distant father. Moved by their reconciliation, Reinhard published his writing publicly on Facebook. She wanted people to understand the toll of the virus.

As a business owner, she understands why people are eager to return to work. It has 36 employees and it is also concerned.

Reinhard hopes his words will help other Americans understand that the coronavirus is not an abstract threat that only affects large cities. It’s everywhere. We need loved ones who should have lived healthy lives for years.

“To experience this threat emotionally makes it more real,” she said. “To be 6 feet away from your mom when you cry?” I couldn’t kiss my mom. “

They buried Adair in a new and lonely way – a few words, the Lord’s Prayer and amazing grace. Nine people and five minutes on a family plot grave 10 miles from his death. Her siblings couldn’t be there. She sent them a video.

“Can you imagine? See a video of your father’s funeral? “

Easter came and her son was 7 years old.

She always talks to her father. She can still hear him breathing on the other end of the line.

I can hear myself gasping too. Him, more in his body. And me, not quite in mine.

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