From stay at home order to temporary business closures, COVID-19 forced separation among communities all over the country, and yet people sought out unique ways to come together and honor life’s important milestones. Whether it was a socially distanced birthday parade or a virtual graduation, family and friends found ways to support one another when it counted. That was the case for Lloyd and Florence Smee on their 53rd wedding anniversary.
Mr. Smee, 75, was scheduled to begin dialysis at DaVita Braselton Dialysis in Braselton, Georgia on June 4, the eve of the couple’s anniversary. Since the pair met in 1966 at a local diner, they had hardly spent a day apart.
“We hold hands a lot and we have for several years,” said Mrs. Smee. “People tend to make comments about that, and we laugh and tell them it’s balance for us.”
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, holding his wife’s hand during his first treatment was not possible. Because patients with kidney failure are more at-risk, DaVita Kidney Care implemented additional precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in its centers. These additional measures were designed to help protect the health and safety of patients and care team members. One such measure was not allowing visitors into the center.
Facing his first treatment alone was daunting for both of the Smees. Mrs. Smee unexpectedly lost her sister a year before, due to complications from surgery. The experience had been traumatic and greatly contributed to the couple’s fear about medical procedures.
”Since I couldn’t go in and hold his hand, he was trying to put on a strong front for me even though he was scared to death,” said Mrs. Smee.
Mrs. Smee called the center the day of her husband’s treatment to see if there was any way she could be with him during his first treatment. Rhonda Barney, the facility administrator, told her that unfortunately, they could not make an exception. However, after hearing the Smees' story, she knew there was something her team could do.
When Mr. Smee arrived at the center for treatment, Rhonda arranged for him to treat at a chair right next to a window. She sat with him and talked him through the process while care team members made comfortable arrangements outside of his window for Mrs. Smee. In a chair with an umbrella overhead, Mrs. Smee was able to be next to her husband, keeping a watchful eye during his first dialysis treatment.
Mrs. Smee even gave Rhonda a thumbs up to show she was comfortable.
“The people [at DaVita Braselton Dialysis] are some of the best staff I’ve ever seen,” said Mr. Smee. “They’re always in a good mood. I’m feeling much more comfortable being there.”
Since that first treatment, the Smees have learned more about dialysis and have accepted it as a part of their routine. Though she’ll never stop worrying about the man she’s been with for more than five decades, Mrs. Smee doesn’t feel the need to attend treatments with him anymore.
“The only thing I’d tell [new dialysis patients] is to go by the dialysis center and talk to the staff,” said Mr. Smee. “The staff will make you feel good, they’ll take away the apprehension.”
Over the last 53 years, the Smees have been by each other’s side for every milestone. From raising their two sons, to trips out west and now, thanks to the team at DaVita Braselton Dialysis, the couple was able to celebrate more than half a century of love and marriage together.