'I Can't Hold His Hand': LI Woman's Husband Has Coronavirus

CUTCHOGUE, NY — A Cutchogue woman’s Facebook post Saturday held the words that brought the tight-knit community rallying in her corner: Her husband, Debbie Horton said, had tested positive for the new coronavirus, one of 114 cases in Southold Town.

“Rick and I wanted to inform everyone that he was tested positive for COVID-19,” she said. “He was tested on Tuesday, March 17 and we got the results back this morning.”

Ironically, Horton said, the couple had been self quarantining themselves since March 13, before he had any symptoms. “We felt it was the right thing to do, based on what we were hearing,” and to keep their six children and their grandchildren safe, she said.

Her husband, she said, got sick rapidly after a few days of having symptoms both thought could be related to just a cold or allergies. On Saturday, March 14, Rick came down with a fever and cough, Horton, a nurse, said.

He is now in isolation at Peconic Bay Medical Center due to the coronavirus and also being treated for pneumonia, she said.

“We pretty much notified anyone who we have been in direct contact with over the last two weeks,” Horton said. “However, after much thought, we felt the responsible thing to do was to post it here on Facebook in case we missed someone.”

On Wednesday, Horton once again posted on Facebook. She’d spent the day painting a bright rainbow on the window of the home she shares with her husband. “The greater the storm, the brighter the rainbow,” she wrote.

Horton thanked all who had sent comments and texts of support and made phone calls of “encouragement, love, compassion and helpfulness. I couldn’t get through this isolation and feeling of being in the movie Groundhog’s Day without you.”

Wednesday, she said, marked Day 12 of the coronavirus journey. “We never thought it would ever last this long,” she said. “Rick has had some ups and downs, for sure, but he remains stable. He is still in ICU at PBMC and I can’t say enough about his treatment and how they are handling this. Every time I hear about a new trial drug or protocol for this virus you can bet I contact the hospital and they either already have him on it or jump on it and start him on it.”

Her husband, she said, has been the antiviral medication Plaquenil, or hydroxychloroquine, since Sunday, as well as other trials and protocols.

“Please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers — as well as so many others who are ill, in fear of catching this, fearful of losing their businesses, or just plain missing their loved ones because of isolation,” Horton said.

Speaking to Patch Wednesday, Horton praised the nurses who have been a constant source of information and support. “I’m so blessed that he is being isolated there,” she said. Although her husband is too weak right now to talk or text, the nurses, Horton said, keep her updated constantly.

Still in mandatory quarantine herself, Horton said not only her children and grandchildren, but friends and a loving community have come together to help.

“My daughter-in-law makes amazing dinners and family and friends have been dropping food off,” she said, including the cookie dough that she’d wanted. “I’ve started freezing things because I feel bad that my husband’s not enjoying it. I decided to save the chicken soup for Rick.”

Horton keeps busy to pass the long days. The hardest part, Horton, said, is the complete loss of control. “I can’t hold his hand,” she said. “I can’t go in and see his face.”

The worry, the fear of the unknown, are constant, she said. “I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring,” she said.

And so, she keeps busy, painting the rainbow, and exercising; Jill Schroeder from JABS has been offering virtual classes.

“That’s what gets me up and dressed, gets me brushing my teeth,” she said. “I have to be accountable. After 30 minutes, I feel revived. I just have to keep breathing, keep busy — and be positive.”

Her husband, Horton said, is a private man, not a “social media person.” But after his diagnosis, she felt the need to share the information.

“That first post was very hard for me,” she said. “But my husband golfs almost every day. What if we forgot to tell someone, what if we missed somebody? The main reason for me getting it out there on Facebook was to let people know that this can and does happens to anyone. Every time you go out you’re playing Russian roulette!” she said.

After the first post, the response was an overwhelming show of support and love, Horton said. On Wednesday, she posted again, with a photo of her brightly painted rainbow.

“I have to be positive,” she said.

Horton also sent her sincere gratitude to the staff and medical personnel at PBMC. “These individuals work tirelessly to save their patients and communicate information to loved ones who cannot sit by their side,” she said.

Horton wanted to tank Dr. Ali Syed, Dr. April Caperna, Vincent Ortolani, coordinator of the caregiver center, nurses Stacy Sullivan, Corinn Goode, Rossini Ching-Roa, and Terrial Buhner, and adult nurse practitioner Amy Ferrara.

Horton, along with so many others, is missing her family, her grandchildren. “Thank God we have FaceTime,” she said.

Despite the solitude, she said, it is critical for people to stay home and follow guidelines set forth by officials. “This is temporary. It’s going to be a long temporary – but I really do believe it’s temporary,” she said.

Of her husband, she added: “I really have faith that he’s going to get better. I’m hoping 1 or 2 more days — maybe 14 days is my magic number.”

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