Jay Marlin’s son remembers that his father could do anything he set his mind to do.
“He created a complete paradigm shift in the way this root canal therapy is done. And we’re going from like to pen and paper to like, the computer age,” said Adam Marlin.
Prior to Jay’s invention in the early 1970s, the procedure entailed filling a tooth with hard rubber and using a hot tool to melt the rubber in the tooth, which often burned patients’ mouths in the process. Jay’s invention melted the rubber prior to injecting it into the tooth, which significantly reduced the risk of burning the patients’ gums, while making the procedure faster and less painful.
Adam only found out how revolutionary his father’s breakthroughs were months before Jay passed away on May 1 from COVID-19 complications at the age of 78.
Jay was born in Boston in 1942 and graduated from UMass-Amherst and Tufts dental school. He later settled in Leominster to raise his two sons with his wife, Carol. He taught at both Tufts and Harvard’s dental schools, and was also a self-taught skier, sailor, painter, and sculptor.
He was one of the COVID-19 patients who were able to pass peacefully surrounded by his family, in his waterfront Dartmouth home, instead of alone in a hospital.
Carol, 76, thinks she can pinpoint exactly how and when she and Jay contracted COVID-19. Although they had diligently followed social distancing orders, Jay’s preexisting health conditions warranted home visits from nurses and physical therapists throughout the week. One of them had worn an ill-fitted mask one day in early April and called a week later to tell them he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
By that point, the Marlins had already been infected. Carol soon developed a low-grade fever, and Jay’s oxygen levels plummeted as the disease ravaged his lungs. Carol has mostly recovered, with just a nagging low-grade fever and cough remaining.
Adam, who owns a real estate company and lives in Monsey, N.Y., already had been infected – along with the rest of his family – in early March, when the town became one of America’s early hot spots. Because he was considered immune from reinfection, he drove up to take care of his parents in Massachusetts for two weeks, armed with a wealth of knowledge about COVID-19 gleaned from both personal experience and the advice of friends and family who are doctors.
He essentially set up a home hospital in his parents’ house, complete with high-flow oxygen machines and I-V drips. His main goal was to avoid putting his father on a ventilator, which doctors said would give Jay only a 5 percent chance of recovery.
“I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” he said. “For a while, I was just running upstairs, taking care of my mother, downstairs, taking care my father.”
Even though that two-week period was incredibly stressful, Adam is grateful for the time they spent together. “The last Shabbat we had, which was the Shabbat before he passed away, my father was happy. Even days before, he was happy, he was smiling.”
Carol even felt like her son’s prior bout with COVID-19 was in some ways positive, because he was able to take care of his father until the end. “Adam said he was prepared to come. He did keep his father alive for a good 10 days longer,” she said. “And really in those 10 days, my husband found joy … and real comfort.”
Three weeks after the couple’s exposure to the virus, Jay passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, including his son, David, who was with his family on FaceTime. “Even through that last day he was so comforted. He held my mother’s arm and mine tight to the very last breath,” Adam said.
Once Jay passed, Carol worked tirelessly to get him to Israel to be buried. “I felt that there was nothing more powerful an example and a statement than to be buried in Israel, so that my grandchildren and theirs … would understand that Israel belongs to them in a very intimate, deep way,” she said.
Jay’s body was met in Jerusalem by friends and family members who live there, and a burial ceremony was arranged in the Judean Hills, “The most amazing spot in the world you can ever imagine,” Adam said. The family members watched over Zoom.
The family is looking forward to the traditional Jewish Yahrzeit on May 1, 2021, so they can be with him one last time in person.
“At the end of Passover and other holidays, we always say ‘Next year in Jerusalem,’” Adam said. “For us, it will be next year in Jerusalem.”