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The Lost Goodbye: She lost her husband, father and brother in less than a month and wants COVID hospital policy to change

Irene Roberson never got to say goodbye to her husband of 26 years. She says the hospital denied her and her children access until it was too late.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — COVID-19 robbed Peter Roberson of his healthy, 50-year-old father.

“Where do I start? He was everything I wanted to be,” Peter Roberson said.

Weeks later it took his 44-year-old uncle, Paul Samson, a pastor in Brooker, Florida. The very next day he lost his 71-year-old grandfather, Jean Samson, a retired firefighter, who lived just a mile from Peter and his parents in Orange Park.

“It seems like the men in our family that were needed the most, that were relied on the most, that did the most, were the ones that passed,” Peter Roberson said.

“It’s just been horrible,” Irene Roberson.

In the span of just three weeks, Peter’s mom, Irene, lost her father, her brother and her husband.

Credit: Peter Roberson
Steve Roberson with his son, Peter Roberson

“I never thought I was going to have to live any of my life without my husband, but certainly not at this young age and certainly not my father and my brother,” Irene Roberson said.

She and her husband, Steve, were both admitted to Ascension St. Vincent's Riverside Hospital on July 7 with COVID-19.

“They were rolling me to my room, and as I passed by my husband's room, he was sitting on the edge of the bed having a snack, and we just waved to each other,” Irene Roberson recalled. “That was the last time I laid eyes on him because when I left the hospital four days later, they would not even let me go near his room or on his floor, none of that. That was the last time I saw my husband.”

Credit: Irene Roberson
Irene Roberson with her father, Jean Samson, and brother, Paul Samson

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“I think it's very important that something be done to change that,” Irene Roberson said.

She says she wasn’t allowed to see her husband until the very end when were they doing chest compressions.

“He never did revive, meaning he had already passed. So we could gown up then and double mask then and go see him, but why not when he could hear our voices and respond and feel the love and say last words?” Irene Roberson said. “Why were we denied that? It's not right, not right, and it's important to the person in the hospital probably more than they realize it, but it's also important to us who never got to say goodbye.”

After 26 years of marriage, Irene says she and their two children never got to say goodbye due to hospital protocol.

Credit: Peter Roberson
Steve and Irene Roberson

The hospital told First Coast News the health and safety of its patients, associates and visitors are its top priorities.

“We know how important and impactful it can be for a hospitalized patient to see loved ones and we take this into account when creating and adjusting our policies, which are in place for everyone’s safety. Our policies are also in alignment with clinical best practices used by many hospitals and health systems locally, regionally, and nationally,” a statement from Ascension St. Vincent read. 

Irene Roberson says she supports a Change.org petition asking for Governor Ron DeSantis’ help to change policies that deny families access to their loved ones hospitalized with COVID.

RELATED: Faces of COVID: Honoring the ones we've lost on the First Coast

“It’s not right," Irene Roberson said. "It's not fair that all these COVID patients are passing away, and they're alone when they die,” 

“Regardless of this virus, families should never be denied access to their loved ones. Patients, who have survived COVID, share about the loneliness and isolation they felt. Patients are not allowed to have anyone advocating for them," the petition states. "Families sitting at home unaware of how their loved one is doing, waiting for a call with answers. It’s natural for loved ones to care for their sick. It’s natural for families to have a bedside vigil as their loved one is dying. There is no virus strong enough to deny human compassion!"

It's heartache the Robersons don’t want any other family to have to experience. As they grieve the loss of their three beloved family members, they are clinging to their faith.

Credit: Irene Roberson
Steve Roberson

“If not for my faith in Jesus, I'm not really sure where I would be," Irene Roberson said.

“It’s the only thing we have to cling to in a time like this when so much is lost,” Peter Roberson said.

As Peter starts his first year of college. he holds tightly to memories of his grandfather, uncle and father, feeling both their presence and their absence.

“He was the perfect dad. He was the perfect husband. I wanted to become a husband just like him. I never got to ask him for dating advice,” he said. “I feel so like so empty and I feel so like, betrayed in an odd way. Like when I press that number it's just going to keep on ringing. He's never going to pick up.”