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90-year-old COVID-19 patient recovers in Henrico nursing home

Posted at 7:57 AM, Apr 21, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- Anne Maliff is finding some peace knowing her 90-year-old mother is now recovering from COVID-19.

Pauline Mitchell was diagnosed with COVID-19 three weeks ago while a patient at Beth Sholom Rehabilitation Center in western Henrico County. Mitchell became a resident in August 2018 after a debilitating fall.

Despite being isolated from other residents and visitors, Mitchell spiked a high fever in mid-March and was placed on oxygen. She never required hospitalization.

“One of the things they said to me was we wish all the patients were doing as well as your Mom,” Maliff said.

But knowing that her mother is still spending most of her days in isolation with limited physical contact, is still difficult to wrap her mind around.

“She’s of the greatest generation and this is not how her last years should be playing out,” Maliff said.

In a phone interview with CBS 6 on Monday, Mitchell said she isn’t letting the isolation get her down, although she never imagined living through something quite like this.

The former television producer and public relations director is instead focusing on the positive.

Mitchell was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame in 1998 and is revered by many in the community for her enthusiasm and optimism. She said she was grateful for the care that she’s received at Beth Sholom.

Like many long-term care facilities across the country, Beth Sholom is dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

“The staff has been wonderful and cooperative and helpful,” Mitchell said. “I can’t say enough nice things about them. They’ve gone way out of their way to help me.”

A few weeks ago, Mitchell had the added comfort of seeing her family outside her first-floor window, offering support and encouragement.

“They would use a hand held phone and we would talk and see each other and visit for a while and it was a really nice, nice feeling,” Mitchell said.

While Maliff said she loved the visits, the physical separation was still difficult.

“Because you’re right there and you can’t hold her hand or give her a hug,” Maliff said.

Now isolated in their own homes, Mitchell’s family, including her children, are doing all they can to support their mother.

While grateful to the staff at the rehabilitation center, Maliff said communication with medical personnel has been challenging.

“In most situations, when your loved one is in a life-threatening situation, you can be there, you can be by their side to make medical decisions for them,” Maliff said. “It’s difficult to be critical because we know the stress that everybody is under.”

While Maliff said she’d love the chance to bring her mother back home to Powhatan County, she knows it isn’t an option for her family. Maliff has a teenage son with special needs and Mitchell’s immobility would require around the clock care that would be difficult to come by during these challenging times.

Mitchell said she’s still confined to her bed and wheelchair, and has several months of rehabilitation to go.

“It would be impossible for my daughter, Anne, to take care of me that way,” Mitchell said.

While Mitchell and her family face uncertainty as to when they’ll be able to see each other again, they are trying to remain upbeat by practicing gratitude.

“You can’t go through life feeling sorry for yourself,” Mitchell said.

“We can’t cry and feel sorry for ourselves when so many other people are in this situation,” Maliff added.

For now, Mitchell said she’s focused on the love of family, the support of her community, and faith that gives her hope during these difficult days.

“We’re all going to die sometime, but don’t be afraid of dying,” Mitchell said. “Just live life everyday the best you can- that’s the best we can do.”

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.