Man left to die without family present in Houston hospital from coronavirus

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Although James C. Campbell had five children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and married to his wife, Rosa, for 68 years, he died without any of them present.

"Not being able to touch him, to pray with him, to say goodbyes. It was very difficult," said his son, James T. Campbell.

It's the sad reality of coronavirus. With hospitals prohibiting visitors during the pandemic, there is little to no family interaction, even as patients are dying.

Campbell fell ill last month. His wife, a retired nurse, cared for him at home until he was showing no signs of improvement.

He was admitted to the CHI St. Luke's in the Medical Center on March 23rd, where he tested positive.

On March 31st, despite aggressive treatments, he died.

"This was a fight that wasn't his to win," said James. "This virus just took him out suddenly. That's the part that is very difficult to accept."

James and his family expected many more years with the elder Campbell. Though he had diabetes and high blood pressure, he was active. They are not sure how he contracted the virus but would like to know.

James has great praise for the doctors, nurses and other health care workers who are filling in for family in a patient's last days, often doing more than what's expected.

One nurse stands out.

"She took down the names of all of his kids and went and prayed with him, and said 'these are your kids and they are praying for you,'" he added.

Now Campbell's family is left to grieve, also in an unusual way.

They do not gather. Comfort meals are left at his mother's front door. He has not been able to step inside his childhood home and hug her.

"When you have a loved one die, the rules about how you gather and how you comfort completely changes," said James.

The funeral for Campbell, a WWII veteran, avid sports fan, active church member, retired long haul driver, husband, father and family man is Friday.

Following CDC guidelines, it will be a small gathering in person with others joining virtually, but his son said the "original" James Campbell deserves more, and he'll get it when people can be together again.

"We are going to have a really nice memorial for my dad with friends and family and church members, and really talk about what he meant to all of us and how we miss him dearly."

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