‘It’s a horrible way to die’: Family remembers victim from COVID-19 outbreak at Tampa nursing home

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A family that lost a loved one staying at the Hillsborough County nursing home with the highest number of coronavirus cases wonders whether the infection could have been prevented.

Lois Renz passed away last Thursday after nearly two weeks of fighting COVID-19 at AdventHealth Tampa hospital, her family said.

“She was an amazing mom, an amazing grandmother, she liked to be called grammy she wanted something different,” her daughter Kelly McNeal told 8 on Your Side.

McNeal contacted 8 On Your Side after reading this report on the outbreak at the Bristol at Tampa.

8 On Your Side Investigates has learned the facility has a history of deficiency citations.

McNeal said the day before Easter, the Bristol at Tampa Rehabilitation and Nursing Home quarantined her mom because of a fever. She said she had to call the facility to find out her mother’s roommate tested positive for the virus.

“Her roommate had been going in and out for dialysis even though the facility was on lockdown,” McNeal said she learned from staff at the Bristol at Tampa.

By the time the family learned Renz also tested positive, she had been transferred to the hospital.

McNeal and her brother Kevin Renz said the AdventHealth Tampa staff helped them video chat daily with their mom.

“We thought she was getting better,” he said, “but they did warn us throughout the process things can change quickly with this.”

A Vietnam Era Air Force veteran, Renz had her 73rd birthday last Wednesday.

“One of the nurses got her a piece of cake and they sang to her,” her son said.

But the next day, a nurse told McNeal time is running out.

“And she told me she’d stay in there and hold her hand until I got there and so that was incredibly comforting,” McNeal said.

McNeal drove the two hours from Gainesville to Tampa. Once she arrived at the hospital, she put on a gown, foot covers and two layers of protective equipment.

“Then I heard a radio that her heartbeat was very low and I need to get in there,” she said, “so I made it by maybe 5 to 7 minutes.”

McNeal got her brother on the phone for those final moments with their mom.

“Thankful that my sister did get there in time and we got to say our peace and tell her that we love her,” Renz said.

McNeal told 8 On Your side she is grateful the hospital allowed her to be by her mom’s side at the end.

“Just to be able to hold her hand was huge for her, for us,” she said. “I mean its a horrible way to die and to die without your family I just don’t know how people are doing that.”

Renz’ children said their mom did not want a funeral. Instead, they say they plan to hold a celebration of her life when the time is right.  

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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