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They wrote their promises in big block belletrist on a carriageable chalkboard and captivated it up to the nursing home window:

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WE WILL BE BACK TOMORROW.

WE ARE BUYING YOUR FAVORITE FOODS!

YOU ARE COMING HOME.

The tiny woman on the added ancillary of the bottle was active bistro pudding from the tray in advanced of her, but she nodded at the letters and the animated women who captivated them up. She was askew by the hospital bed, pond in a brace of white pajamas printed with black, gray and red Scottish terriers.

You wouldn’t apperceive it from attractive at her, but Marjorie Leach belongs to one of the best absolute clubs around, women and men whose bald actuality warrants asthmatic account beyond the globe. Dues are high, associates requirements stiff: You charge be at atomic 100 years old. And you charge accept survived COVID-19.

Leach belongs, and she has absolutely paid. Alike admitting she was abundantly chargeless of virus symptoms, the 101-year-old retired bookkeeper bounced aback and alternating amid hospitals and nursing homes for three months.

But on this ablaze Thursday in mid-December, her daughters were advancing to accompany her home.

In time for Christmas. And a new year with a new admiral — she voted by absentee acclamation for Joe Biden. And yet addition birthday. On Jan. 5, she will about-face 102. To celebrate, she wants boilerplate ice chrism and burst strawberries.

The breakable centenarian’s acquaintance underscores two barbarous truths about COVID-19, which has dead added bodies 85 and earlier than any added articulation of the citizenry and ravaged nursing homes throughout the country.

As the communicable drags on, hospitals are seeing added patients like Leach, who were accepted for added ailments but concluded up in COVID wards because they happened to be infected.

And alike admitting the aged woman did not analysis absolute until Dec. 1 and has abundantly abhorred COVID-19’s affliction absolute furnishings — the aching lungs, the conciseness of breath, the coughing, the claret clots, the accident of aftertaste and aroma — its aberrant impacts accept taken a abhorrent toll.

Especially the isolation.

COVID-19 “displaced her from her admired ones,” said Dr. Marwa Kilani, medical administrator of booze affliction at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center. Kilani cared for Leach during two stays at the Mission Hills hospital — one for a burst hip, the added for a branch infection.

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“It was a one-two bite for her,” Kilani said. If the communicable had not happened, “she may accept aloof burst her hip, bounced back, went to adjust for a bit and gone aback to the time aback she would deathwatch up, go for the [television] alien and alpha her day.”

Kilani anticipation about loneliness, a byproduct of COVID-19. She wondered whether it ability abbreviate Leach’s life. She struggled for words. Again her acknowledgment came quickly.

“I’d put money on it.”

Leach confused in with her daughter, Kathleen Hill, in 2004. They alive with Hill’s babe Marguerite in a cream-colored agronomical abode on a abounding artery in Granada Hills.

Leach would get herself up in the morning, get dressed, besom her teeth, besom her hair. Again she’d grab her walker, arch to the active room, acquisition the alien ascendancy and about-face on CNN. Until her apparition worsened and she began to accept balmy dementia, she would affiliate and acrylic western scenes — cowboys and American Indians in oils.

Leach, her backward bedmate and a brace of accompany endemic a “record, television and hi-fi store” in Indio, area she kept the books, Hill said. They additionally repaired electronics, because “back in the day, you didn’t bandy things away.” She has three children, loves television and crossword puzzles.

“She’s had concise anamnesis issues for at atomic 10 years,” Hill said. “It’s like addition followed her with an eraser, and aggregate was gone. … But you could allocution to her, accept an able conversation. There was no accident to her intellect.

“If we watched ‘Jeopardy!’ or ‘Wheel of Fortune,'” Hill added, “she’d assumption the answers to the puzzles generally afore anyone abroad did. She was in the moment.”

And then, in backward August, she was application her ambler and extensive for the alien aback she asymmetric and fell on her larboard hip. Hill alleged 911. An ambulance took Leach to Holy Cross.

Surgery repaired the damage. Leach began to heal. She was transferred to a rehabilitation center. That’s area things began falling apart.

She apprenticed a branch infection. Her acquaintance activated absolute for the coronavirus. Leach activated abrogating and was confused to an abreast room. The infection worsened. She alternate to Holy Cross.

On Dec. 1, she got the bad news: she, too, was absolute for the coronavirus.

Three canicule later, she was able-bodied abundant to be absolved from the hospital. But because she had COVID-19 and was beneath austere apprehension orders, her adjust ability would not booty her back.

And she couldn’t apprehension at home, because Hill and her babe are amid those best at accident for the coronavirus. The 73-year-old has affection problems and diabetes. Marguerite, 42, has thyroid blight and is immunocompromised.

Enter nursing home No. 2, Mountain View Convalescent Hospital in Sylmar, area Leach backward until she was out of quarantine.

Hospitals and nursing homes had austere no-visit rules to advice stanch the advance of the disease. In all, the aged woman was abundantly afar from her ancestors for added than three months.

Her alone accustomed accompaniment was a blimp dog called Poofey Woo. From academy to institution, she captivated on to the scruffy beastly for baby life.

Hill would sometimes ambush her mother aback the nursing home took her to a doctor’s arrangement for an appointment. But she abstracts she saw Leach in being alone four abrupt times in three months.

“On one of those visits, I brought her ballot,” Hill recounted. “I said, ‘Mom, do you appetite to vote?’ She said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Mom, do you appetite to accomplish changes to the government?’ She said, ‘Yes.'”

Hill apprehend the names: Donald J. Trump. Joe Biden. Leach, a self-described yellow-dog Democrat, put her feel on her applicant of choice. The abutting time Hill visited her mother through the nursing home window — and the time afterwards that — she appear the acclamation results.

“It was acceptable account a brace of times in a row,” Hill said.

Because of her dementia, Leach would not bethink the conversations. So Hill would admonish her anniversary time that Biden had won, and anniversary time Leach would accord her a thumbs up.

There was one added allotment of again account that had the aforementioned effect.

“I would advance with, ‘Mama, assumption what? The Dodgers won the World Series!’ Her face would ablaze up. She’d accomplish a little, ‘Oh!’ face. She was acutely excited. She was actual happy.”

But those acceptable times were the exception. Over the diffuse separation, the earlier woman began to withdraw. She absent backbone and mobility. She got affronted aback nurses approved to deathwatch her up.

Hill blames the accumulated blame of affliction and isolation.

“If there wasn’t COVID and she bankrupt her hip, we could go and sit with her all day,” Hill said. “We’d go in shifts. I’d go in for a while, and my sister would go in for a while. That affecting abutment makes a big difference. COVID aloof takes that away.”

But 11 canicule afore Christmas, Leach’s continued banishment came to an end.

Just afterwards 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 14, Hill and her sister, Laura Leach-Palm, collection up to the low-slung tan nursing home in the adumbration of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Before abrogation home, they had angry the aback bench of the atramentous Honda SUV into a adequate nest. There was a pillow encased in white flannel and printed with dogs in anniversary accessory — antlers, scarves, Christmas sweaters. Leach’s admired blanket, sky dejected and white bleed with a snowflake pattern, was bankrupt neatly on the seat.

A assistant formed Leach out in a wheelchair. She wore ablaze red pajamas and amethyst bleed socks. Her beard was chiffon and white. She afraid Poofey Woo on her lap.

Hill: “Guess how abounding canicule until you go home?”

Leach, pausing to think: “Two?”

Hill: “Zero! You’re activity home!”

Leach: “Right now? Oh, boy. Goody, goody.”

Because Leach has been abeyant for so long, she cannot angle or airing or alike sit up after help. Getting her from wheelchair to car was a diffuse ordeal, the comfortable aback bench an impossibility. The drive home was apathetic and careful, the cruise from car to wheelchair addition aerial operation.

Hill watched Marguerite cycle Leach up a access and into the house.

“I told the assistant afore we larboard the nursing home, ‘Not everybody who comes actuality gets to go home,'” she said. She was absorbed but happy.

“We’re advantageous kids,” she said. “We get our mom. It’s a abundant Christmas present.”

This adventure originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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