Carolann Gann, 75, herself a nurse for more than three decades, fell ill last month at a nursing home in Issaquah, outside of Seattle. She was taken to hospital after she tested positive for the virus.
Ms Gann’s family, unable to visit because of the risk of getting infected, praised hospital staff for allowing them to maintain contact with her almost until the very end, by use of video chat. The nurses were also able to reassure the family, Ms Gann was not alone.
One of the nurses in charge as Ms Gann’s condition worsened, Tatyana Huber, told The Independent, she used her cell phone to allow Ms Gann’s five children say farewell.
“I can’t take credit for the FaceTime because we took the idea from some of our patients who are still well enough to be using their cell phones,” said Ms Huber, 29.
“We had seen some of our other patients who are well enough to use apps like FaceTime or Skype stay connected to their family and friends while they’re being hospitalised.”
Ms Huber said during a final conversation, Ms Gann’s middle child, Michelle Bennett, was able to reassure her, and say it was all right to end her suffering and pass on.
“I want to be respectful of what Miss Bennett shared with her mom. But the conversation was about forgiveness. And it was about love. And it was about letting go,” she said.
“And that she was able to give that to Ms Gann and give her the permission she needed to pass, was just incredible.”
She added: “We were very honoured to be there. At the same time, it was very heartbreaking she wasn’t able to say these things to her in person.”
Ms Huber said one of the staff members on duty was so overcome with emotion by the video chat, she had to leave the room.
As to how she and her colleagues dealt with such overwhelming incidents, she said: “I have a partner at home. And so I always come home to him and I try not to bring home what happened at work with me. I try to just stay present with him.
“And it really helps me just kind of stay grounded and reminded of why I’m being a nurse and why I continue to do this because I want everybody else to be able to go home and have those same experiences with their family.”
Ms Bennett, 51, has poured praise on the staff at the Swedish Hospital in Issaquah, for allowing her to say a final farewell. The family gave permission for the medical authorities to talk about their mother, and have even set up a nurse’s memorial GoFundMe Page named for their mother.
“They did everything they could to make my mother comfortable and to help us,” she said. “I was able to tell her I loved her and that she was not alone. Not dying alone – that was the most important thing.”
Ms Bennett, a senior police officer, confirmed part of her final conversation was about letting go. She said none of her family members wanted to see her suffer needlessly.
“I didn’t want her to suffer and I didn’t want her to be hanging on any longer than she needed to,” she said. “Because ultimately, she was hanging on for me, you know, not for her.”
Ms Gann said she the nurse put the phone to her mother’s face so she could see her.
‘“I knew I had to say ‘It’s okay to go. It’s okay to go’. It was very, very, very, difficult because in my heart, I’m having to let go as well,” she said.
“And, in a way, it was peaceful because it was giving her the permission that she needed.”
Because of the statewide law to limit gatherings of people, Ms Gann’s children have been obliged to postpone a funeral service. Yet at the weekend, Ms Bennett and her sister, Tiffany, were able to watch as their mother’s coffin was placed in a vault.
Regulations permit only immediate family members and state they stand six feet apart and not touch.
“It was crazy. I wasn’t able to hug her,” she said. “But I did break the rules a little and put my hand on her shoulder. I will admit it. I did.”
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