Gloria Pincu remembers being loaded into a truck by EMTs in early April. She remembers the drive to Mission Hospital in Asheville; she remembers being placed on a gurney. After that, things get fuzzy.
Weeks before, 80-year-old Pincu and her husband, Daniel, had boarded a cruise ship in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a trip around South America. The world had different plans: COVID-19 was spreading globally. Instead of docking in Chile as originally scheduled, their ship was rerouted to San Diego, where they disembarked on March 31 — two weeks later than planned. The couple made it back to Asheville in early April but soon after tested positive for the coronavirus.
Her husband, also 80, had a terrible cough that made him increasingly weaker; she had a terrible pain in her back. He went to the hospital first; she followed a day later. Both were in bad shape, Pincu says, but the two weren’t allowed to see each other. She was “out of it completely” when Daniel died of COVID-19 on April 27.
By the end of April, Pincu was awake in the intensive care unit. She didn’t have the typical COVID-19 symptoms of a fever and cough, she says — she had no pain but was weak. She wasn’t hungry, but she remembers drinking a chocolate drink and falling asleep around 8 p.m. Eventually, she was moved to a private room with a window, but all she wanted to do was go home.
The hospital had few patients, Pincu explains. Occasionally, nurses would bring her outside for a few minutes of fresh air. “It was very eerie once I finally was able to leave my room and see what was going on,” she says, describing the corridors of the hospital she passed through during that time as “deadsville.”
When she finally returned home on May 6, the world looked completely different. Her two daughters came to help take care of her, and friends cycled in and out. The Jewish Secular Community of Asheville, of which Pincu is a member, set up a meal train to make sure she was fed.
But in addition to regaining her strength, Pincu is also grieving for her husband and completing the “awful tasks” all widows have to do — changing the registration to her car, the name on her bank accounts. “It’s been agonizing for me,” she says.
“It’s like living in hell,” she continues. “It was just awful. I still can’t get over all the things I’ve gone through and I’m still going through.”
With reporting by Virginia Daffron
This article is part of COVID Conversations, a series of short features based on interviews with members of our community during the coronavirus pandemic in Western North Carolina. If you or someone you know has a unique story you think should be featured in a future issue of Xpress, please let us know at email@example.com.