The novel coronavirus is behind the death of an Alabama man who refused to leave his wife’s side after she contracted the deadly disease. Jimmy Smallwood, 77, knew that staying with his wife of more than 60 years would put him at risk for COVID-19, but insisted on staying with her anyway, his family said.
Smallwood’s wife, Mary, fell ill with COVID-19 following a family gathering around Christmas that infected more than a dozen relatives, the Anniston Star, a local newspaper, reported.
The couple’s daughter, LaDonna, told the paper that her father refused to leave her mother’s side after she tested positive, despite her offer for him to quarantine at her home just several hundred feet away. The man was also encouraged by his doctor to leave his home, as he suffered preexisting medical conditions that could put him more at risk for severe illness.
Mary, also 77, was hospitalized in January after her oxygen levels had dipped so low that her lips turned purple, said LaDonna. Smallwood was taken to the emergency room days later after he collapsed at home; his oxygen levels had also fallen, dropping to 60%, according to the Anniston Star. Normal levels typically range between 95-100%.
The pair were treated for COVID-19 at Regional Medical Center in Anniston, just two doors down from one another. Mary required ventilation at one point but eventually recovered. Her husband of more than six decades, however, did not, dying after his heart failed on Jan. 13.
"I knew with his heart, he couldn’t make it," LaDonna told the newspaper. "He said ‘hush,’ that he knew he was going to heaven if he died, and he wasn’t losing his wife."
Phillip Smallwood, the couple’s son, told the Anniston Star that no one would have convinced his father to change his mind, even if he had known that his decision to stay by his wife's side would ultimately lead him to contact the illness and pass away.
"He loved his wife, and that’s the way he was," he said.
Mary, who is continuing to recover at home and still requires supplemental oxygen, told the paper that she misses her husband terribly, but "wouldn’t bring him back here for nothing in the world."
"He’s in a better place now. A better place than this," she said.