ELLSWORTH — Robin Margaret Thayer loved lobster, butterflies and the color purple. She loved Christmas and birthdays, visiting Gouldsboro from her home in Buxton and making jewelry.
Robin was funny, “a kind of comedian,” said her mother, Cynthia Thayer, who runs Darthia Farm in Gouldsboro. “She had a lovely smile, loved to talk to people and communicate with people.” In one photo, Robin reclines with her beloved family dog, Kelpie; in another she wears a shimmering red fedora, adorned with sequins, smiling and looking directly into the camera.
Thayer, who died at Mercy Hospital in Portland on May 29 after contracting COVID-19 at the age of 56, didn’t have it easy, said Cynthia. She was deaf and had multiple handicaps, many from birth, as well as many surgeries, including open heart surgery.
“She overcame a lot of things, but she didn’t overcome this one,” said her mother, who herself recently was hospitalized with pneumonia and is isolating at her farm in Gouldsboro.
Cynthia said she spoke with her daughter a few days before she became ill and was taken to the hospital in the middle of the night with blue fingers and lips and low oxygen levels. Robin was eventually placed on a ventilator, which she was on for close to a week.
“Of course we weren’t allowed to go in and see her,” said Cynthia, and Robin struggled to communicate with hospital staff. “She’s deaf and reads lips and when people came in their faces were totally covered. Her communication was compromised.”
The family tried to get an American Sign Language interpreter to come in, “but they weren’t comfortable with that.” So, Robin made do with a machine interpreter to communicate with her doctor.
“It’s not really quite the same,” said Cynthia. “It’s a very difficult thing, especially for deaf people.”
Robin was on the ventilator for close to a week, said Cynthia. Things were looking up: Hospital staff successfully weaned her from it, and on Thursday, “She had a very good day and the doctor said ‘I think she’ll be walking with her walker’ tomorrow,” said Cynthia. The next day, said Cynthia, Robin died.
“She was very animated and feeling pretty good and kind of sitting up with her glasses on,” said Cynthia, of her last conversation with her daughter. “She said she had a little pain. I said they’ll give you something for that. She didn’t seem afraid. She didn’t seem very anxious. She said everyone was very nice and pleasant. She liked everybody there. That’s kind of a comfort.”
Cynthia said it’s unclear how Robin got the disease, but that it was likely it was from one of the caregivers who came to help her at her home in Buxton who didn’t have symptoms.
“One of her caregiver people had it and didn’t know it because there were no symptoms,” said Cynthia, although she added that the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that “Everybody who came in to help her in her house tested negative. The problem is you need to presume that everybody you meet is positive. You don’t know if they’re positive or not. People don’t seem to understand.”
Cynthia said she is alone, grieving at home, although one couple she knew had been quarantined did drop by recently.
“There isn’t much we can do right now” in the way of memorial services, she said. “If this lessens, I’d like to have just a big lobster feed and invite people who knew her.” But right now, she warned, “People should not be getting together. It would be a horrendous thing to have a gathering and have someone get sick and die.”
Cynthia said she’s frustrated when she sees residents out, not following physical distancing guidelines or wearing masks.
“Everyone should presume that the person they’re talking to is positive and act accordingly,” she said. “It’s not fair to infect someone. You wouldn’t do it intentionally, but you might have it and you might never have symptoms.”