A Nurse's Grief

Standing exterior portrait of man and woman
A woman's face with mask and face shield
Woman sitting with father and stepmother at dining table
Wedding portrait of man and woman
Photograph of large family

July 12th, 2020 I heard from my stepsiblings that my stepmom Darlene V. F. has been admitted to the Billings Hospital in Montana with COVID 19. A week later on July 18th, my dad John W. F. starts having severe shortness of breath, and fatigue. My stepbrother takes him to the ER where they find out he also has COVID 19. Unbeknownst to either my dad or my stepmother at the time of their hospital admissions, they would only see each other again on Zoom.

When my father was admitted to the hospital on July 18th, he was first placed on a step-down unit, not the ICU. As a nurse, I was relieved because I knew he was not that critical, however, I received a phone call maybe 12 hours later from the doctor letting me know that dad had changed for the worse and was being moved into the ICU in case he had to be intubated. I live in California and I remember asking the doctor if it was his father would he travel the 1200 miles knowing that one, my dad might not make it before we got there (we were driving because you couldn’t fly) and two, we wouldn’t even be able to see him because the hospital wasn’t allowing visitors, he said no but my husband and I decided to go anyway if just to stand outside the hospital so we would be closer to him and my stepmother.

Before leaving for Montana, I remember standing in the middle of the dog park talking on the phone to the infectious disease doctor about convalescent plasma which was only recently approved by the FDA as a new treatment, and would my dad want that – “hell yes he would!” I said, dad’s words not

48 hours earlier “I’m going to beat this shit.” When we got into Billings two days later my brothers from South Dakota were already there, and in the parking lot of the hotel we looked at each other desperately wanting to hug and comfort, but not wanting to chance coming down with the virus. So, we just stood there looking at one another saying what now? The next day I was allowed to visit Dad in person for 15 minutes to tell him that his wife of 35 years was dying. I will never forget how his eyes flickered, darting away from me, making me realize that although I was a nurse, in that room I was his daughter.

My stepmom died on August 1st, 2020.

My father stayed in the hospital for another 85 days, fighting every day to get stronger and after a few more complications finally left the hospital on October 23rd, 2020 expected to survive. He died three days later. I am sure he was so happy to have spent the few days before his death eating pancakes and drinking coffee with his boys and grandson and feeling comfort from his wife whose urn was on the fireplace mantel as if waiting for him to come home.

My father died on October 26th, 2020.