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By Linda McCallum

Like so many of us, experiencing the far reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have a story to share about the passing of a loved one and the impact of the healthcare restrictions.

This is my friend Barry’s final journey during COVID-19. Barry was a close friend and colleague for decades. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer in the spring of 2018 and after major surgery and chemo treatments, he seemed to have put the cancer behind him.

Fast forward to March 2020, Barry collapsed at home and was taken by ambulance to hospital where it was discovered that the cancer was back and had spread into his brain – his diagnosis was terminal.

This of course coincided with the arrival of COVID-19 in Ottawa. Barry had to remain in hospital and within days he was told he could no longer have any visitors.

Weeks went by and Barry’s condition deteriorated to the point where he was transferred to the palliative care unit. Once again, no visitors were allowed, and he was effectively cut off from his friends and family.

At the time, the hospital would only allow for visitors once someone was deemed to be in their last 72 hours of life. Sadly, by the time Barry reached this point, he had slipped into a coma and was no longer aware of anything or anyone. In less than 48 hours Barry had left this world.

Following his death, we were informed that, due to COVID-19 the cemetery could only allow 10 people to attend his graveside funeral. What could we do? There were so many of us that wanted to say goodbye to our long-time friend.

We did the very best we could for Barry’s final journey. We lined the entrance gates to Beechwood Cemetery on both sides to form an honour guard as he journeyed to his final resting place. Forty-two of us stood respectfully in silence waving goodbye to our cherished friend.

COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of our lives, not only in how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis, but also in how we leave this life. It can be heartbreaking.

I am heartened by the new direction we are taking at OutCare and have found some solace that we are working to make in-home palliative care an option to those who wish it.

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