Lucy Ann Lance and her late fiance, Doyle Barnes

Survival and Grief: Beating COVID-19 After Losing A Loved One

COVID-19 brought a bittersweet ending to a love story more than 25 years in the making for longtime Ann Arbor radio show host Lucy Ann Lance and her fiancé, Doyle Barnes.

The couple had dated for five years before taking a 20-year break. One day, out of the blue, Barnes called Lance. Lance recalled him saying: “’I’ve had cancer, I’ve had a stroke and I’ve had an epiphany and I want to see you.’”

Lance responded: “I’ve been waiting.”

Lucy Ann Lance and her late fiance, Doyle Barnes. Photo Courtesy of Lucy Ann Lance

Lucy Ann Lance and her late fiance, Doyle Barnes. Photo Courtesy of Lucy Ann Lance

The couple reunited and built a new life together. By the time the coronavirus pandemic hit, Barnes had suffered two more strokes and was living with Parkinson’s Disease; and had nurses visit their home to help.

Lance, who produces and hosts the “Lucy Ann Lance Show” on 1290AM WLBY, brought her microphone home and broadcast from their condo. Despite the couple’s careful precautions, both began to feel sick in March.

“I thought I was getting my usual sinus infection, and then I kept getting sicker and sicker,” Lance said.

A Call for Help

The couple didn’t have fevers – and in the early days of the pandemic, that meant they didn’t qualify for a COVID-19 test. By the first days of April, Lance’s symptoms had worsened – vomiting, diarrhea; nonstop sweat coupled with bracing chills. On April 5, Lance called 911 for an ambulance to take herself and Barnes to the hospital.

“I couldn’t function. I couldn’t take care of him anymore at that point. His (Barnes’) breathing started becoming labored as well,” Lance said. “I still wasn’t believing it was COVID; I still thought it was some kind of flu.”

At the Michigan Medicine hospital, Lance and Barnes learned they had COVID-19.

“I was just so relieved that finally someone knew what was wrong with us and that we were going to be taken care of,” Lance said.

Side by Side

Lance asked that she and Barnes be roomed together – a blessing in the middle of the crisis.

“I was able to watch over him even though I was so sick – because at that point it was very difficult for others to get into the room. They did everything by the doorway; even the doctors would call you on the phone,” Lance said, describing the loneliness of the COVID-19 ward.

Thanks to the kindness of a nurse, staff pushed their beds together so they could hold hands. Though Barnes could barely talk, his oxygen levels improved shortly afterwards.

Lucy Ann Lance and her late fiance, Doyle Barnes. Photo Courtesy of Lucy Ann Lance

Lucy Ann Lance and her late fiance, Doyle Barnes, and their dog Beau. Photo Courtesy of Lucy Ann Lance

“It made me feel so good that he knew at that point that I was there and that I was going to be with him on this journey,” Lance said.

Barnes died several days later April 11 with Lance at his side. Lance was discharged four days later.

Lance is waiting until 2021 to hold a funeral for her fiancé, as the pandemic made it impossible for Barnes’ family to travel. It’s also made it impossible to grieve her loss, as she does her best to move forward and take care of the day’s challenges. Like recovering from COVID-19, which left her with pulsing headaches and significant hair loss.

“I’m grateful to be alive, and I thank God every day I’m alive,” Lance said.

A Bright Spot

One of the bright spots for Lance was the role her Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan health insurance took by covering the entire cost of her nearly $40,000 hospital bill. Blue Cross has committed to covering the cost of all COVID-19 diagnostic testing and treatment through the end of 2020.

“You don’t have to worry about the economic impact on your family and having to pay something like that, especially for people who might not be working right now or working at a reduced rate – that goes a long way,” Lance said.

For Lance, Barnes’ memory will always live on through his relentless positivity.

“We had a good life together. There are no regrets,” Lance said. “He was just so much fun; he always made me laugh.”

Barnes was “larger than life” at six feet, six inches tall: as a sales executive, he loved to golf and had traveled the world. But despite the illness that took his physical ability away before COVID-19, Lance said he never got depressed.

“Life I think – 99% of it is attitude. He had a great attitude no matter what,” Lance said.

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Photo credit: Courtesy of Lucy Ann Lance 

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