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ICU staff make sure COVID-19 patient and family stay connected

  • Author: Karen Rich
  • Date Submitted: Sep 15, 2021
  • Category: About BHS

"ICU staff make sure COVID-19 patient and family stay connected"

On March 20, Karen Rich was breathless, feverish, and extremely fatigued. As doctors at Butler Health System (BHS) gave her oxygen through a mask, she nervously awaited her test results and wondered if she might have COVID-19.

Those suspicions were confirmed on March 23 when Karen tested positive for the virus responsible for the worst pandemic since 1918.
“The nurses tried to comfort me, and they assured me that everything would be OK,” Karen recalls. But as Karen’s condition worsened, doctors made the critical decision to place her on a ventilator to help her breathe. Karen’s family hadn’t been able to see her in person due to the temporary visitor restrictions hospitals everywhere have adopted to help keep people safe. However, the intensive care unit (ICU) staff managed to connect Karen and her loved ones in a virtual way. Shortly before they inserted her breathing tube, they handed Karen an iPad so she and her family could video chat.

A Joyful Reunion

When Karen was finally able to come off the ventilator, the ICU staff used the iPad again—this time to share the news of her recovery. Shane, one of her nurses, encouraged Karen to wave and give a thumbs-up to her family. Karen feared her husband, son and daughter-in-law would be alarmed by her appearance after several days of illness, but Shane insisted she shows her family she was OK. “I am so grateful for that because I had no idea how scared and anxious my family was to see me,” Karen says. “After I spoke with them, I realized it wasn’t about how scary I looked. It was to help my family through a worrisome time.” On the day Karen went home, Roland “Bud” Weck-erly sang a special hymn for her via video. Weckerly, the father of clinical nurse supervisor Stacey Heider, RN, BSN, has been singing daily hymns to inspire BHS staff since the pandemic began.

As Karen left the hospital, BHS staff members celebrated by lining a hallway and applauding her as she went by—her right hand placed tenderly over her heart. Moments later, Karen stood and embraced her husband for the first time since her ordeal and then thanked the entire BHS medical team for saving her life.