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Husband & wife diagnosed with coronavirus die hours apart: 'It's heartbreaking'

Merle and Dee Tofte - Photo courtesy Michelle Taylor - 3.jpg
Merle and Dee Tofte - Photo courtesy Michelle Taylor

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KATU) – Merle and Dee Tofte were the parents of five children and less than a month ago -- in the last photo they all have together -- they were celebrating Dee's 85th birthday.

“They were gracious, they were kind, they were funny, and they loved us,” Michelle Taylor said of her parents.

But just two weeks after the birthday celebration, both would be hospitalized, and both would test positive for coronavirus.

The troubling part; neither traveled, nor did they go out much, leaving their family at a loss of how they got the virus.

Both had symptoms of difficulty breathing, cough and a fever. But despite hospitalization, their health declined.

In those final moments, just five hours apart, healthcare workers at Peacehealth Southwest Medical Center took extraordinary measures to make sure the family who was not allowed to visit in person, could say goodbye.

“It’s heartbreaking. The staff [at Peacehealth Southwest Medical Center] was amazing. They did something I will be forever grateful for. They set up a facetime call with my parents, each in a different room, with a chaplain with their grandchildren and children so we could all say goodbye to them. We will all be forever grateful for that,” Taylor said.

Michelle is now quarantined after being in close contact with her parents. She said she is speaking to KATU News to warn others.

“[The pain] is unbearable at times,” Michelle said “I just want people to take it seriously. That’s what I want. I never thought this would happen to our family. I know that sharing their story is helping people really understand that this virus is taking people’s lives. I would say - be safe, be kind, be smart.”

Adding to the pain, with new guidelines in the state and Michelle being quarantined on Wednesday, the two will be laid to rest - but sadly no family will be present.

“I understand it, I do, because everyone has to make sacrifices right now. But this is a huge one for us. But it’s okay, it’s the right thing to do. We will have a celebration of life later,” Michelle said.

Michelle tells KATU News she wanted to speak out because she doesn’t want another family to experience what she and her family are feeling.

She is pleading with people to stay home.