"My father was in a stable stage until the ongoing 2020 COVID-19 pandemic began to hit New York City hard," Jin Zhen wrote

By Robyn Merrett
April 20, 2020 09:34 PM
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A New York man is shedding light on the heartbreaking impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had on those in nursing homes after his father tragically died alone due to social distancing guidelines put in place across the U.S.

Over the weekend, Jin Zhen, a certified personal trainer at top celebrity gym Dogpound, revealed on GoFundMe that his father died of a heart attack on Easter Sunday and sadly he and his mother could not see him for a month and were unable to say their goodbyes because of the facility’s visitors ban.

Zhen’s father had been at the nursing home for nearly four years due to an “age-related illness and also a stroke,” Zhen shared.

His father was left “an incomplete quadriplegic” and “couldn’t walk, became wheelchair-bound, unable to raise both arms or even grasp utensils to feed himself, but he still had sensation for pain and temperature,” Zhen shared.

Although his father was living in a nursing home, Zhen and his mother remained by his side, visiting and caring for him every day.

“For the past for years, my mom and I have been taking care of him on a daily basis. I visited him at least five days a week, sometimes seven days depending on my workload. But my mom was there with him every day, from morning ’till late night. For the first year, she even stayed overnight to keep him accompanied, until the nursing home banned visitors for staying overnight with residents.”

While his mother would cook “three meals a day” for his father, Zhen himself took on the role of bathing his father, transferring him in and out of bed and giving him weekly haircuts.

Zhen would also “massage his body to prevent joint stiffness and blood clots” as well as “inspect his body for bed ulcers/and or sores.”

That was Zhen’s normal until the pandemic.

Zhen explained that his father was stable until the virus began impacting New York City.

“The state enforced a rule to have all nursing homes ban all visitors from visiting until further notice,” Zhen said, adding that he and his mother were not at all prepared for what would happen next.

“The nurse literally told me about it the evening before the day of lockdown was set. We did not know how long the lockdown would last,” Zhen said.

Jin Zhen with his father
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Zhen explained that on March 11, he gave his father a shower as usual, shaved him and cut his hair and nails. Little did he know it would be the last time he would see his father alive.

One month later, Zhen received the call that no family wants to get.

“We got a call from the nursing home. The nurse told me dad fell unconscious. They performed CPR on him as we spoke, telling us to be prepared for the worst and get ready to come in,” Zhen said.

“Moments later, the nurse told me they’re sorry and they did their best,” Zhen said. While his father did not die of the virus, his death was affected by the precautions taken to combat the virus and he was unable to have family by his side as he took his last breath.”

Of his father’s death, Zhen said: “This hit me hard.”

“I just hope dad had left in his sleep without any pain or suffering,” he wrote on GoFundMe.

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One day after his father’s death, Zhen received another call from the doctor, who shared that his father died of a heart attack.

Making the news all the more devastating, Zhen said he mother believed “he probably got tired of waiting for us so he just left.”

His father’s death has been extremely challenging for the family and Zhen is asking his community to donate funds towards funeral expenses.

At this time, the GoFundMe page has raised $38,437.

Included in the GoFundMe post was a touching video of Zhen caring for his father over the last few years of his life.

The video, which was also shared on YouTube, beings in April 2016, showing Zhen helping his father with physical therapy. The clip follows Zhen as he cares for his father, helping him carry out everyday tasks like using the bathroom and eating.

Perhaps the most touching scene from the video is of Zhen helping his father take a shower. Because his father is unable to sit up and bathe himself, Zhen sweetly gets in the shower with him.

The video continues even after the visiting ban and shows Zhen FaceTiming with his father on March 15.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.