NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Last fall, the Martin family celebrated Paul’s 40 years of military and civil service to our country.
Paul Martin, at 66 years old, spent 20 years in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer followed by 20 years as a civil service professional.
Over the years, his former high school sweetheart-turned-wife, Karen, held down the homefront caring for their six children and other children whose families needed child care. She was always ready, on short notice, to relocate to the town of the next duty station.
Now retired, the Martins soldiered through the early stages of the pandemic while enjoying time with family members in their beautiful home in Yorktown.
Once an intelligence officer, always an intelligence officer. So, quite naturally, Paul Martin had the COVID-19 vaccination plan all sorted out: He would get his vaccination first. He figured there wasn’t a more romantic way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with a shot of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. His bride, who is 65 years old, would get her first shot on March 8.
Two days after the March 8 shot, Paul and Karen Martin both tested positive for the coronavirus. For two weeks, they tried to mount a battle from home.
“It was only when our family, which was keeping a close eye on us, said ‘You guys have got to go [to the hospital].’ Karen went one day and I followed her from there,” said Paul Martin said.
They ended up on Ward 4 Pavilion West at Riverside Regional Medical Center. in Newport News. Their rooms were four doors apart.
“They could see how disappointed and depressed we were and how plain scared we were,” Paul Martin said.
The scene was scarier for Paul Martin, who is diabetic and has suffered numerous service-related injuries over the years. Doctors treated him with convalescent plasma and interferon.
The separation was also brutal. At times, Paul Martin wondered what he would say to his bride of 44 years, if on any given day, it was his last.
Then, a nurse came up with a clever idea: daily visitation.
“When she [Karen] walked through that door, they pushed her through the door, we just sat there and cried and held hands for about 10 minutes.” said a now soft-spoken Paul Martin.
“I’m not a big crying kinda guy and it was then that every day around noon they bring in lunch trays and Karen would turn that corner… those were the best lunches I’ve ever had. This is another example of the compassion, the humanity and the thinking that Ward 4 Pavilion West did for us and for every patient that was there,” said Paul Martin.
Karen Martin was released from Riverside on March 29 and Paul Martin was released on April 1. She is on the mend while he still has COVID-19 long-hauler lung issues.
Moved by the care and compassion they experience, Paul and Karen Martin penned a letter of thanks. They wrote, “The statement that you saved our lives is the absolute truth.”
“We were blessed that we did live through this. There are thousands of other Americans and folks around the world that didn’t,” said Paul Martin.