Medicine Brought Them Together. Then It Put Him on the COVID-19 Front Lines.
By Ashley Edwards Walker
When Elana came across Michael’s Bumble profile in March 2017, she instantly knew they’d get along. Not only was Michael a third-year medical student at the same Long Island, N.Y. university Elana was attending as an undergrad, but like him, she also planned to go to medical school. She decided to swipe right, and just as she suspected, they matched.
Most of the guys Elana had messaged with before Michael would go the more casual route, suggesting a first date over coffee or a movie night. So she was pleasantly surprised when Michael asked her out for dinner. The date lasted over four hours, and Elana walked away with a hunch. “I was due to hang out with friends late that evening,” she says. “And I walked in and told them I had just met my future husband.”
The two continued dating for three years, but at the beginning of March 2020 their relationship was put to the test. New York City was becoming the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, and Michael’s medical career—the thing that had first drawn them together—was now putting him on the front line of the crisis. They didn’t live together; Elana still lived at her family home on Long Island, and her mom was adamant that no one in their family do anything that would put their household at risk. So, for the first time since Michael and Elana began dating, they weren’t able to see each other. “It wasn’t a decision as much as I wanted to keep her and her family safe,” Michael explains.
While quarantining apart, Michael and Elana did their best to stay connected via daily FaceTime calls, though Michael’s schedule made it difficult. Then, he got sick with COVID himself. As an internal medicine doctor working on his hospital’s COVID floors, Michael had expected to contract the virus. Elana was distraught all the same. “I straight up asked him, ‘Do you have any special wishes if, God forbid, the worst happens? Is there anything I need to know that your family doesn’t?’ We had that difficult conversation,” she says.
Luckily, Michael’s symptoms were mild; he’s young and had always been healthy, so was optimistic he’d be fine. That didn’t make things any easier for Elana. “All I wanted to do was hold his hand and hug him,” she says. “I definitely had a few disagreements with my mom about going to be with him. She said, ‘If you leave, you can’t come back.’ It was hard, but I understood that she wanted to protect everyone else in our house.”
Before the pandemic hit, Michael and Elana had begun talking about marriage. But then the city shut down, he was working 24/7, and they were living apart. Elana reconciled herself with waiting. Michael? He started planning a secret proposal — no easy feat between back-to-back hospital shifts and recovering from COVID.
In April, Michael managed to connect with a jeweler willing to make a ring during the lockdown, and realized he could make it happen. The ring wasn’t ready for a couple months, and during that time he coordinated with their families to plan a safe celebratory dinner following the proposal. By the time he showed up at Elana’s house on Father’s Day, Michael finally had the ring. The two took a walk to a nearby beach, where he got down on one knee. After, they toasted their pending nuptials with their parents and siblings, dining outdoors at a nearby Italian restaurant.
There are no wedding plans for now. That’ll happen sometime in the fall of 2022. Instead, Elana is concentrating on medical school, which she just started, while Michael focuses on building his career. But they did recently reach yet another relationship milestone in the middle of the ongoing pandemic: Moving into their first apartment together in July. And for now, that’s enough of a reason to celebrate.