BRADENTON, Fla. - Melvin Porter's love for his wife, Ann can be felt as he looks through old photos. Through good and bad, they've stuck together.
"These are pictures of our 25-year wedding anniversary," he said. "She is the love of my life. And when I said, ‘Death do us part,’ I meant it."
One year ago, Ann was admitted to Braden River Rehabilitation Center in Bradenton. Diabetes forced doctors to amputate both of her legs and a stroke kept her at the center longer.
Like their wedding vows -- "in sickness and in health" -- Melvin visited every chance he got. But when the coronavirus appeared, Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order to stop nursing home visits. The concern: visitors would spread COVID-19 among the vulnerable residents.
Melvin shows a collection of photos of himself and Ann
Those restrictions have kept Melvin at a distance.
"They told me I could see her online, but I don’t know how to use a computer and stuff. All I get to do is talk to her on the phone," he lamented.
Making matters worse, Ann caught COVID-19.
"She was the number 11 victim that went to the hospital," he said.
Luckily, she survived. But perhaps the most heart-wrenching side effect of the virus, Melvin was never able to be by her side.
"It hurts my heart and soul that I can’t see her," he continued.
Melvin joins countless other families across the state who've gone nearly three months without seeing their loved ones at nursing homes in person.
A Central Florida woman started an online petition to reopen nursing homes to visitors. More than 3,000 people have shown their support. Governor DeSantis has yet to set a date or unveil a plan for their reopening.
"It tears your heart out," said Melvin.
For the first time Thursday morning, Melvin had a brief chance to see Ann after her room was moved. They were still separated by glass; they held their hands up to a window.
July 27 marks 28 years of marriage for the pair. Melvin plans on standing there again, separated but together.
"People can go out to the beach and do what they want to, but I can’t go see my wife and I don’t understand it," he added.