James and Phyllis Sabo reunited

After seven months apart due to COVID-19 visitor restrictions at Marian Extended Care Center, Phyllis Sabo was able to reunite with her husband, James, this week. While James was in lockdown, the couple of 60 years talked over the phone and FaceTimed constantly with the help of care center staff. 

On the morning of March 13, Phyllis Sabo visited her husband, James, at Marian Extended Care Center during one of their regularly scheduled visits. When she left for volunteering with plans to return for lunch, she didn't know that would be the last time she saw him for seven months.

When Phyllis came back that afternoon, the facility had been closed to all visitors out of COVID-19 precautions. With the help of care center staff, the couple of 60 years took to calling and FaceTiming to stay connected.

James has been a long-term care patient at Marian Extended Care Center since 2018, when he suffered a stroke. He enjoyed frequent visits from Phyllis, his wife of 60 years, before the pandemic brought things to a halt.

“While we were apart, he called me every morning to tell me about the previous evening, and then again at night to tell me about his day, and a few more times in between,” Phyllis said. 

After months of connecting digitally, Marian Extended Care Center finally relaxed its visitation restrictions on Oct. 30, and Phyllis received word that she would be able to see James. 

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Once she arrived, Phyllis and James were able to see, talk and hold hands with each other once again, albeit through a plastic screen and outfitted in gloves.

While it's not the same as before the pandemic, Phyllis said she is grateful to be able to see James again. 

“Every night in my prayers, I pray for all of the caregivers at Marian Extended Care Center,” Phyllis said. “They are so kind and so good to James; they put me at peace knowing he is in great hands.”

Even before James was admitted as a care center patient, the couple was involved at Marian Regional Medical Center — James was a volunteer at the hospital, and Phyllis was a volunteer at Mission Hope Cancer Center. 

Under the care center's new visitation policy, each resident is allowed one visitor per week by appointment. Moving ahead, Phyllis has a standing weekly appointment to visit James.


Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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