סמיר אגייב נפרד מסבתו יבגניה
Samir Agayev and his critically ill grandmother
Photo: Tal Shahar
Samir Agayev and his critically ill grandmother

In Tel Aviv coronavirus ward, doctor says no one should die alone

Though Samir Agayev's grandmother was very weak, it was clear she was happy to see him at the Ichilov hospital, where Dr. Howard Oster believes both dying patients and their families deserve the right to say goodbye

Adir Yanko |
Published: 05.16.20 , 09:10
In the office of the social worker at an internal medicine ward at the Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Samir Agayev was having difficulty maintaining his composure.
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  • Overwhelmed by sadness, Agayev had come to the ward to bid his grandmother a final farewell. She had been struck down by COVID-19 and after a month-long battle, was taking her final breaths.
    סמיר אגייב נפרד מסבתו יבגניהסמיר אגייב נפרד מסבתו יבגניה
    Samir Agayev and his critically ill grandmother
    (Photo: Tal Shahar)
    "Every minute counts," Agayev said, "but I don't know what I will say to her and what I will ask her? Perhaps I will ask what message she has for anyone in the family."
    Yevgenia Gavrielov had no symptoms when she was first hospitalized with the virus, but had since become gravely ill.
    Agayev was able to see his grandmother before she died after the hospital took the brave decision to allow family members access to the coronavirus ward to see their loved ones one last time. It is a move not without controversy.
    סמיר אגייב נפרד מסבתו יבגניהסמיר אגייב נפרד מסבתו יבגניה
    Samir Agayev and his critically ill grandmother
    (Photo: Tal Shahar)
    After donning protective gear, and moments before he was allowed near his grandmother's bed, Agayev tried to remain optimistic.
    "I am still hopeful although I understand she is very weak," he said.
    "She has been in the hospital for a long time and must be emotionally wiped out as well."
    סמיר אגייב עם סבתו יבגניה גברילוב והמשפחהסמיר אגייב עם סבתו יבגניה גברילוב והמשפחה
    Samir Agayev and his grandmother, left, at a family gathering before she became ill
    Agayev was always very close to his grandmother.
    "We talk every day," he said. "She worries about me and my family and I just want to show her the same love. I love her; she is like a mother to me."
    Despite being in protective gear Agayev was somewhat concerned about contamination but was determined to see his grandmother.
    She recognized him right away and though she was weak, seemed very happy to see him.
    "Is nothing making you feel better?" he asked holding on to her hand. He never let go of the hand for the entire time he was there.
    סמיר אגייב נפרד מסבתו יבגניהסמיר אגייב נפרד מסבתו יבגניה
    Samir Agayev holds the hand of his critically ill grandmother
    (Photo: Tal Shahar)
    She did not seem to hear the question. He repeated it and then she said, "my lungs don't work."
    Later Agayev said, "you must think of yourself now, just think of yourself. Everything will be fine grandma."
    Saying goodbye was hard. As he walked away, Agayev turned for one more look at his grandmother. He waved and she waved back.
    "She understands everything, and feels everything," he said.
    סמיר אגייב נפרד מסבתו יבגניהסמיר אגייב נפרד מסבתו יבגניה
    Yevgenia Gavrielov waves at her grandson Samir as he leaves her bedside
    (Photo: Tal Shahar)
    I don't want my patients to die alone," said Dr. Howard Oster, the head of the ward.
    "The families agree. It is very important to allow this moment for both," he said.
    "Sometimes the patient is too sick and can no longer communicate, but may be able to hear and understand. This is a very terrible disease and patients are often on their own inside the ward."
    With gratitude to the Agayev family
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