Ottawa

Man endures 100 COVID-19 tests to visit wife in long-term care home

She can't use her words to tell him how much it matters, but an Ottawa man says enduring 100 COVID-19 tests has been worth visiting his wife of 50 years in a long-term care home. 

'She can't walk and talk, but I think she still appreciates that I'm there,' says Bruce Coughtrey

Bruce Coughtrey has visited his wife, Liz, every day he could during the pandemic. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Recently Bruce Coughtrey marked an important, uniquely 2021 romantic milestone — his 100th COVID-19 test, which he needed to visit his wife of 50 years living in a long-term care home. 

"Liz is at the stage now where she can't walk and talk, but I think she still appreciates that I'm there," Coughtrey told CBC News. 

"I think when I get there in the morning, there's a little glimmer of, 'Oh yeah, that's good.'"

Liz lives in a long-term care home. While she can no longer walk or talk, Bruce believes his presence is a comfort to her. (Submitted by Hannah Munroe)

Coughtrey has visited his wife each day he could for the past year while wearing a mask. She can't leave her room, so he wants to make sure she doesn't feel isolated, even if she can't see whether he is smiling, laughing, or frowning.

When restrictions came into place in March 2020, Coughtrey wanted to visit his wife to help feed her lunch and go for walks.

An initial lockdown prevented those visits, but as soon as he could, he started taking all the needed requirements to visit. 

"I had to be tested very, very frequently," he said.

WATCH | Meet the man who has been tested for COVID-19 more than 100 times

Meet the man who has been tested for COVID-19 more than 100 times

2 months ago
1:27
Almost 18 months into the pandemic, Bruce Coughtrey has been tested for COVID-19 over 100 times. Until recently, frequent testing was a requirement for visiting his wife Liz in her long-term care home, which he does every day. 1:27

Early on, he visited the testing centre on Heron Road, but the lines were quite long even when he arrived 30 to 45 minutes early. Then he switched to Brewer Arena, which also had long wait times.

When pharmacies began to offer testing the process became smoother, he said. 

During the pandemic, his wife's home went in and out of lockdown, which meant he would sometimes have to wear extensive protective gear, other times a mask and goggles.

Looking forward to shedding the mask

With a few dozen known active COVID-19 cases in Ottawa, Coughtrey said restrictions are easing, somewhat. 

On good days, I can wheel her out to Riverside Drive and sit there and watch the children run around the park​​​.- Bruce Coughtrey

Fully immunized staff, caregivers and visitors no longer need to be tested before entering the homes, as long as they aren't showing symptoms.

Still, earlier this month Coughtrey took his 100th COVID-19 test — even marking the occasion with a cake. In his hands he held a calendar with a line through each day he was tested.

Earlier this week, Bruce Coughtrey underwent his 100th COVID-19 test, marking it on the calendar, and celebrating with a cake. (Submitted by Hannah Munroe)

He hopes he can soon sit with his wife without a mask, so she can see his face for the first time in months. Coughtrey realizes that day could still be far off. 

For now, he appreciates the time the two can spend together.

"On good days, I can wheel her out to Riverside Drive and sit there and watch the children run around the park," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joe Tunney reports for CBC News in Ottawa. He can be reached at joe.tunney@cbc.ca

With files from CBC's Krystalle Ramlakhan

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