Nurses caring for a dying COVID-19 patient comforted his family outside the hospital by posting sympathetic signs in the window.
On Sunday, 65-year-old Rene Johnson Sr., a COVID-19 patient at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire passed away, unfortunately without family by his side, due to visitor restrictions. Still, his loyal family camped outside for hours each day, their presence known to the nurses, who waved through Johnson’s room window.
“They were there, rain or shine, and famous to the staff,” nurse Kaitlin Kerrigan, 26, tells Yahoo Life.
The family held up posters like “I love you dad” and “We miss you” and to show appreciation for his caretakers, made “Thank you nurses” signage.
Angela Daneault tells Yahoo Life that while her dad was hospitalized, the family wore “Johnson Strong” T-shirts and had a park picnic to enjoy Johnson’s favorite breakfast: a Western omelet, beans and an English muffin. “We found different ways to be close to my dad,” she says.
Soon, the staff started reciprocating with their own window notes: “He’s doing OK” and “He’s comfortable.” According to Kerrigan, the notes were “a fun way to bring the family inside with us.”
After two weeks in the hospital, Johnson passed away with Kerrigan and resource nurse Lynn Harkins holding his hands. “We told him that that he did a great job with his family and that he fought hard,” Harkins, 52, tells Yahoo Life.
The nurses, who had updated the family prior, then wrote down “He is at peace” and “We are so sorry” on paper which they held up to the window.
“Writing the signs was difficult,” says Kerrigan. “You don’t know what to say to a family when they can’t be with their loved one — it was absolutely heartbreaking and something I will never forget.”
Daneault tells Yahoo Life that both nurses are part of her father’s story. “If we couldn’t be there, they were the next best thing. They touched us in ways we can’t explain.”
She wrote a GoFundMe account to raise money for Catholic Medical Center staff “who were by his side and helped us cope during this difficult time.” Daneault wrote, “They truly are the HEROES and risk their lives for other families loved ones on a daily basis during this crazy time. We would like to give back and recognize them for all their hard work and dedication.” The proceeds will go toward the ICU staff.
Since Johnson’s death, his family has continued standing outside the hospital to support patients and staff. “Last night, a nurse put a sign in the window that said, ‘Thank you so much for the love and support,’” Daneault tells Yahoo Life. “Her patient waved to us.”
Daneault says of the nurses, “I want frontline workers to get recognition and praise — they risk their lives for our loved ones….we can’t show them enough gratitude.”