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‘There’s no closure:’ 90-year-old Texas woman who died from COVID-19 spent final moments alone

HOUSTON — Joan Handrinos, 90, was not sick and had no symptoms of the coronavirus, until Friday afternoon, March 20, when her temperature spiked to 105 degrees. She was rushed to the hospital, and hours later, passed away. Three days later, her family found out she tested positive for COVID-19. 

“That’s the crazy part to me,” said Sherrie Handrinos, Joan’s granddaughter. “She wasn’t sick. What people need to understand is that healthy, old, young — it could affect everyone.”

Sherrie Handrinos said her grandmother, Joan, did not have any prior symptoms or pre-existing conditions when she suddenly spiked a fever. Joan Handrinos lived at a senior living facility in metro Detroit, and was rushed to the hospital.

“When they got her there, they immediately put her on the COVID-19 floor,” Sherrie Handrinos said.

Just 12 hours later, Joan Handrinos passed away.

“My dad ended up calling the assisted living home because they didn’t even know, so the hospital hadn’t even told them yet that she tested positive,” said Sherrie Handrinos. “There’s a bunch of other people in there, including workers.”

To make matters worse, no one in their family was able to visit Joan Handrinos, since all the seniors were ordered to quarantine on March 8.

The quarantine lasted through Joan Handrinos’ final minutes. She spent them alone. Sherrie Handrinos said family members were warned by doctors that seeing her meant risking their own lives.

Sherrie’s father, Dino, is 64 years old and hadn’t seen his own mother in nearly two weeks. He will now also have to get tested for the coronavirus.

“My dad wasn’t even able to go see her before she passed,” said Sherrie Handrinos. “They don’t make exceptions for that either. There’s no closure. You don’t get to say goodbye. There’s no funeral. You get a burial, but that’s all you get. My dad told me today that he cannot even go into her apartment and get some clothes, her belongings, her photos.”

Joan Handrinos left behind three kids and seven grandkids, but only nine of them will be allowed present at her burial to comply with the CDC’s recommendations against large gatherings.

Sherrie Handrinos said her family doesn’t want her to fly from Houston to Michigan and potentially expose herself, or put others at risk.

Instead, she asked folks to not take their loved ones for granted.

“Answer the phone call for somebody, you know?” said Sherrie Handrinos. “Call somebody back. If you have your parents or grandparents, reach out. We just don’t really know what’s going to happen with this.”

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