Nurse shares heartbreaking story of FaceTime goodbye between mother, daughter

A nurse is sharing her heartbreaking story after helping facilitate a goodbye on FaceTime between a daughter and her mother, in the hospital dying of coronavirus.

Michelle Bennett first shared her story with KIRO 7 last week.

Her 75-year-old mother, Carolann Gann, was living at Issaquah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center when other patients got coronavirus. She tested positive and was soon at Swedish Issaquah.

Despite healthcare workers’ greatest efforts and Gann’s attempts to fight the disease, her condition deteriorated. But because of the contagious nature of the disease, family members were not allowed in her room.

Registered nurse Tatyana Huber said she and two other nurses donned their protective gear and worked to make Gann as comfortable as possible as they set up a FaceTime call with Michelle to say goodbye.

“We felt honored,” Huber said. “We felt so honored we could do that and facilitate that for her.”

Gann herself was a nurse for 38 years. The Bennetts were thankful these nurses could be there when they could not.

“The nurses were so good at rubbing her head and holding her hand,” Bennett said.

“Michelle had shared some things that she’d like for us to do for her mom if she could be there,” Huber said, “and they were things like holding her hand and just rubbing her head, reminding her that she was loved and that it was okay. And we did those things for her in [Michelle’s] absence.”

Bennett, a former Sammamish police Chief and now a major with the King County Sheriff’s Office, said nurses like Huber are truly heroic, finding ways for families to still connect with their loved ones.

“I was able to say goodbye and tell her I love her,” Bennett said. “I look at the nurse and she has all her stuff on and she’s crying.”

Huber said she wants families dealing with the same heart-wrenching distance to know they are doing all they can to help.

“Please know that we're doing everything to make sure that your family member does not feel scared and alone when it's their time,” she said. “Please know that we're there for them, and just share with us what we can do to make them feel safe and comfortable.”

KIRO 7 asked Huber how nurses are supporting each other during the long hours on the frontlines of the pandemic and their emotionally grueling experiences.

Huber shared that during Gann’s goodbye with her daughter, one of the nurses in the room actually had to step outside.

“She was quite tearful as well, and she felt so overwhelmed,” she said. “So just being able to cover each other every once in a while, allow each other to take some additional breaks and just take some time to breathe and reconnect with yourself before we’re able to go back and care for our patients.”

Huber also has a simple message for the community right now: stay home.

“We don’t want you and your family to be in a situation where you can’t be there to say goodbye,” she said. “Just please, continue the good work with social distancing and staying home. It won’t be forever.”

A Carolann Gann Nurses Memorial Fund has been created.

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