Frank Martinez and his wife, Masako, have been “inseparable since they day they met,” according to their niece.

The coronavirus forced the couple, who have been married for 63 years, to be apart. After contracting COVID-19, the two were admitted to an Illinois hospital on separate days and received treatment in different areas.

To bring the two back together, two nurses planned a date night for the couple.

“They both wanted to see each other so badly,” Kim Presson, Masako “Terry” Martinez’s nurse at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, told USA TODAY.

Presson recalled Masako, 86, often asking for her husband since she was hospitalized on Jan. 22. When Frank, 93, was admitted three days later, he began asking about his wife’s condition.

COVID patients are frequently separated from loved ones in the hospital, Presson said. What stuck out most to the nurse was this couple did not have children and could not use technology provided by the hospital, such as iPads, to stay in touch with each other, she said.

“They had always just been together and were so reliant upon one another,” Presson said. “I thought, ‘You know what, let’s see if we can make this happen.'”

To make it happen, Presson reached out to Frank’s nurse, Hannah Schlemer.

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The couple’s niece, Eddye Weissmann, said she was “elated” when the nurses called to inform her they were planning a dinner date.

“Knowing that they were there separated in separate rooms was really hurting my heart because I knew that they needed each other,” she said. “So it was absolutely wonderful that in this terrible time they are having right now, they were able to spend some time together.”

Nurses Kim Presson, left, and Hannah Schlemer helped reunite Masako and Frank Martinez for a dinner date.

On Jan. 27, the nurses transferred Frank into Masako’s room, with medical equipment to support both of them, and positioned him in a recliner next to her bed, Presson said.

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The couple, apart for five days, held hands “the whole time,” she said.

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As they watched the news and some game shows, they had “a mini Thanksgiving” dinner of turkey, stuffing, green beans and mashed potatoes.

Poor appetites because of their illness meant they didn’t particularly enjoy the dinner, though they enjoyed their desserts, Presson said. The two even switched so he could enjoy a chocolate pudding and she could have a vanilla milkshake.

Also during the dinner date, the nurses video-called Weissmann and sent photos to her, which she shared with family.

Weissmann told the nurses the gesture “meant the entire world to her.” Presson said it meant just as much to them.

“We have very limited opportunities to have positive or joyful experiences, given the state of health care right now,” she said. “It definitely was the highlight of my day and the unit that day.”

To her, she said, it was “a reminder that there’s still joy to be found in this. There’s still happiness, and we’re going to get through this.”

Frank and Masako are still hospitalized. Presson said they are both improving, and Weissmann said on Friday that “they are absolutely going in the right direction.”

Weissmann and the entire family is looking forward to having a safe, and socially distant celebration to welcome the couple home.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nurses plan date for couple hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois



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