SHADY COVE, Ore. -- Sandra Ramirez and her husband John are living proof that love does not dim with age.
"Well, he is a very active 81-year-old and who builds cars,” Sandra said of her husband, chuckling. "He's very alert, mentally, no issues at all. But the main thing everybody knows him for is his cars. He builds hot rods."
The two have been together for 15 years.
"I’m a widow, he was divorced for 30 years or more, and neither of us were particularly interested in getting married again ... but we met and had so much fun together it just never ended,“ Sandra said. "I see people who have been married for 50, 60 years and I envy them a little bit, but I think 'that's okay, we're so happy, we couldn't be happier.'"
But as life usually does, it brings challenges and couples are faced with adversity. Sandra says that John's recent health struggles are the worst thing that the two have them have been through together.
“I was really frightened because there was a long period of time where he was very fragile because they started to do something here in Medford and couldn’t finish up, so it left him kind of fragile, and that's when we wanted to transfer him up to Portland ... but he had to sit here for three days — four days actually — before there would be a room up there,” Sandra said.
John went in more than a week ago for an angiogram at Providence in Medford, after he was having chest pains for an extended period of time. Sandra said that John's doctors determined he needed a stent for his heart, but decided to have the procedure done up in Portland. He waited those four days for a space to open up at Providence in Portland, and Sandra says that his condition got worse in the meantime.
“We finally got him up there — they actually life flighted him up there, Thursday night, late, and did the surgery in the morning," Sandra said.
It was only after John arrived in Portland that they learned he would need open heart surgery instead of a stent as originally planned.
"[The stent] just didn't work out, he was too far gone," Sandra said.
According to Sandra, the lack of capacity at Providence in Portland due to the surge in COVID-19 patients is why he couldn't be seen sooner. She feels lucky that John was able to get in when he did, when so many other procedures have been canceled or postponed to the strain placed on hospitals.
“I feel so sorry for the people who didn’t get in — and who need surgeries and they can’t get in — and that's got to be heartbreaking to know you've got cancer and you can’t get rid of it,” Ramirez said.
Sandra expects to have John home on Thursday after making the drive up to Portland and back, but she will tell you that this process has been incredibly stressful. She has not been able to see her husband since he was flown to Portland last week.
“The frustration for me, truthfully, is it’s been feeling like they are prioritizing Covid patients who didn’t get a vaccine over the other sick people who did,” Ramirez said. "And I don't think that's right, I think a certain amount of space should be reserved for the community. And if you didn't choose to get the vaccine I think you need to get in line, not the community. That's just my opinion. Because I very very avidly recommend that you get the vaccine."