KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The pandemic is forcing some hospitals to keep visitors out, as COVID-19 cases rise. It's weighing heavy on some families with critically-ill loved ones.
A Knoxville man, who is waiting for both a heart and kidney transplant, won't be able to see his family as he suffers in an Indiana hospital. As of March 3, he's been waiting almost 100 days for a transplant.
Life has turned upside down for Jennifer Celeste and her fiancé, Steve. What was supposed to be a run-of-the-mill doctor's appointment in Indiana three weeks ago turned into an indefinite stay in the hospital.
"When you go to just tell someone goodbye for a few days and then hear he's not coming home, you know I don't quite know how to take that," Jennifer said as she teared up.
Steve needs a kidney and a heart transplant before he can come home from an Indianapolis hospital.
He had previous health problems earlier this year, including pneumonia and a collapsed lung. He knew he would need transplants at some point, but no one expected that day to come this quickly.
His family is in Knoxville, biding their time. They have made the six-hour drive to Indianapolis to see him and were just up there last week to spend time.
"Trying to figure out how to get up there to see him, how does he see his kids, and of course COVID-19 is making everything more difficult," Jennifer said.
Last Monday, Steve went into cardiac arrest while on the phone with Jennifer.
"I heard everybody calling for the crash cards and calling for CPR," Jennifer said. "They did CPR on him for I don’t even know how long and then they shocked him and they got him back, so the kids and I left the very next day to go up and see him.”
Jennifer started a Facebook page to document his journey, but, that feeling of the unknown was amplified Tuesday morning.
"They're shutting the hospitals down tomorrow at 9 p.m. for at least two weeks because of COVID-19," Jennifer said.
She can't see him while he waits to get on the donor list and receive a match. Jennifer doesn't know what the future holds but said she hopes it includes Steve back in her arms.
"Somebody can live without one kidney but they can't live without a heart, so we understand the sacrifice that somebody else's family goes through for our family," Jennifer said.
It's a difficult time to wait for a donor, alone and away from loved ones.
There is a food and gift card train for the family online. Anyone who wants to help can sign up to help by clicking here.
They still need help finding childcare for when they are in Indiana. They said they appreciate the positive thoughts and prayers during this tough time and know their journey is strengthened with the support from family and the community.