‘She was not alone’: Nurse reassures family in loved one’s final moments

The family of an Eastside woman who died of coronavirus says the nurses comforted their mother and helped them say goodbye using a cellphone.

Carolann Christine Gann, 75, died early Thursday morning at Swedish Issaquah.

Gann’s daughter is Major Michelle Bennett, with the King County Sheriff’s Office. Bennett served as the Sammamish police chief until her recent promotion.

“It’s hard to believe a week ago she was in her nursing home and now, seven days later, she’s dead. How does that even happen?” Bennett said Friday.

Bennett said her mom called her over a week ago to tell her they were testing her for coronavirus. Gann was living at the Issaquah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Gann had COPD and was in the early stages of congestive heart failure.

“She called and said it’s positive. And at that moment, it was like the world was a little crashing down,” said Bennett.

Soon she was at Swedish Issaquah fighting coronavirus. Due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, Bennett wasn’t allowed to see her mom. Bennett and her wife, Brandi Gordon Bennett, say the doctors and nurses were incredible.

“There were so many wonderful people who stepped up to us and said, ‘If this was my mom, this is what I would do.’” said Brandi Gordon Bennett.

They had some very hard decisions to make, like whether or not to have her intubated. Her mother had told them previously that was not what she wanted. Doctors said it might extend her life a couple of weeks, but it was very unlikely she could survive this. They decided not to put her on a ventilator.

Gann worked as a nurse for 38 years, at Northwest Hospital, Evergreen Hospital, and Harborview Medical Center.

As her condition declined, nurses did all the could to help her and her family. A nurse helped Bennett and her family talk to her mom on the phone.

“All of us on speaker phone are saying goodbye, which is a horrible thing. Kids are crying and saying goodbye on the landline on speakerphone,” said Bennett.

"But her mom was pretty present. She could hear us and respond and tell the kids how proud she was of them, " said Brandi Gordon Bennett.

And when her death was near, the charge nurse called them again. This time, using Facetime, she got to see her mom one last time.

“So she suited up, put the phone to my mom’s face and I could tell by her breathing. I was able to say goodbye and tell her I love her and I look at the nurse and she has all her stuff on and she’s crying,” said Bennett.

The nurse held her mom’s hand and patted her head, offering the comfort her family couldn’t give in person.

Gann did not have an easy life. Her father shot and killed her mother in front of her when she was only 15 months old. She was raised by her aunt and uncle. She went on to have five children of her own. Bennett says her mom was really smart, quick, like a photographic memory, and funny, she had a wicked sense of humor. She worked for nearly four decades as a nurse.

“With all that strength and legacy and she’s killed by the coronavirus in a week, the tragedy and irony is sickening. I hate coronavirus,” said Bennett.

She is thankful for the brave nurses, who she calls heroes, for comforting her mom in those final days.

“She helped so many people as an RN on their way home, as they were dying. So to be on the other end of that and have RNs help her, it’s inspiring,” Bennett said.

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