Essentially since they became a couple 43 years ago, Dan Melby and Robin Lovo have been inseparable. The childhood sweethearts have overcome countless obstacles over the course of their lives but nothing quite like the coronavirus.
For decades Lovo has been battling nearly deadly heart and lung disease. At 58, Lovo has been hospitalized countless times, including in 2008 when she suffered a massive heart attack. On multiple occasions, Lovo's family was faced with the possibility that they might lose her.
In 2008, Lovo was airlifted to a medical facility in St. Cloud. Dan wasn't able to ride in the helicopter with her. When he arrived at the hospital, a priest was there to greet him. Medical staff told Dan that Lovo likely wouldn't survive. Her once hazel eyes had turned to a paler shade of gray. Ultimately, Lovo pulled through but not without a long road ahead of her.
According to her daughter, Amber Melby, Lovo needed to learn how to perform basic functions, like eating, walking and talking all over again.
Dan stated that a couple of years ago doctors told Lovo she had six months to live.
In October, Lovo suffered another episode which her family though might kill her. Doctors again did not give her a positive outlook. Meanwhile, she could barely lift her head, but no matter the circumstances, Dan was right by Lovo’s side.
Today, Lovo is able to walk around and hold a conversation--albeit with labored breath. Presently in need of an aortic valve replacement, Lovo battles her condition on a daily basis.
Because Dan’s job at Menard’s puts him in relatively close contact with others and because Lovo’s condition puts her at an acute risk for death from COVID-19, Dan and Lovo have not been able to physically interact since the pandemic hit Minnesota.
“I’m heartbroken,” Dan said. “I can’t see my wife; I can’t hug her; we don’t touch. Basically, all I can do is see her from the sidewalk.”
Since the pandemic hit, Lovo has been staying at Amber’s home with Amber’s children. The physical distance has not stopped Dan from expressing his love for his wife, and this weekend he used the artisic skills his family knows him to draw chalk hearts complete with the couple’s names and vines symbolizing their bond.
Amber captured the act in a series of photos and shared them on Facebook on Saturday, April 25. The post began getting a positive reception with nearly 300 people reacting to it. Not long after, the number of reactions doubled, then tripled, then quadrupled, and still kept growing.
As of Tuesday morning, April 28, nearly 19,000 people from around the country and likely the world have reacted to the post that uses the #aworldofhearts tag.
“It just kept going up and up and up,” Dan said. “To think that other people are going through the same thing is pretty touching.”
In her post, Amber describes Dan as nearly unable to walk. He is shown with a medical boot on his right foot due to an injury that tore his Achilles tendon and broke a bone in his leg. The injury forced Dan to lie down when making his drawing, making it a laborious task.
Her father’s additional effort came as no surprise to Amber, who said that all of her friends described her parents as a model couple throughout her life.
“They’ve never been wealthy, but as long as they were struggling together, it was fine,” Amber said.
Neither Lovo nor Dan had been very familiar with social media prior to their story garnering widespread attention. Dan still doesn’t have a Facebook page, but he said he’s touched by the fact that so many people have been able to relate to his and his wife’s circumstances.
“I was pretty overwhelmed [by the massive response]. I couldn’t believe it. I think it’s truly amazing. I think people out there really do care about each other. With this pandemic going on, it makes me think about the other families who are stuck.”
Lovo added that she never expected the post to pick up as much attention as it did.
“I expected a few ‘likes’,” Lovo said, “but I never expected it to go viral.”
“It makes you want to cry, you know. It was like, ‘There’s Dan; he’s so sweet,’” she later added.
Amber said that the positive response online has added a glimmer of light to her family. Amber, who sat next to her mother at the time of their joint telephone interview, said her parents are not familiar with social media, so she has had to walk them through the updates on the post.
“They’re feeling pretty special,” Amber said. “It’s funny that she said, ‘Go viral,’ because I help her get on Facebook everyday.”
The family is among many who have become separated due to the coronavirus. Across the country, families are prevented from entering assisted care facilities and hospitals rarely allow visitors.
For now, Lovo’s family is taking matters one day at a time. Dan continues to visit Amber’s house, which is about a mile away from his and Lovo’s, virtually everyday. The couple typically visits through the window until Dan needs to leave for the evening.
Even without the threats posed by the coronavirus, Lovo’s health is in a precarious position. For the last two years, the family has been searching for a surgeon to perform her valve replacement surgery.
“I just hope that, if we can’t get the surgery, she has time to be with him,” Amber said.
Dan said he’s eager for things to return to relative normalcy.
“She’s the best thing that ever happened to me; I couldn’t live without her,” Dan said. “I’m just hoping this stuff gets over soon so I can hold her in my arms again.”