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ICU nurse goes above and beyond to keep elderly COVID-19 patient connected to family

(KSL TV)


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Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SANDY – With Utah's ICU beds nearly 88% filled, there is a definite strain on health care workers staffing these units.

But it is not stopping them from going above and beyond for their patients.

Betty "Nana" Donaldson, 81, spent 11 days in the ICU after testing positive for COVID-19. Even though she had been cautious and isolating, her family believes she caught the virus during her husband's funeral.

"The cough kept getting worse and then she got sicker so we finally convinced her to go to the hospital," daughter Dian Tune said. "It is so painful not to be able to hold your mom's hand and say goodbye and we almost had to say goodbye."

During Nana's stay at Intermountain Alta View Hospital's ICU, she got close with her nurses. They kept her connected to family through FaceTime calls.

"They were as kind and thoughtful and considerate with us as they could possibly be with the circumstances," Tune said.

Nurse Justin Ables said he had an instant connection with Nana and her family. He made sure to keep them all updated on her condition, as he does with all his patients.

"Our patients are lonely and they are isolated and scared and we kind of as caregivers internalize all of that," Ables said.

When he got word that she would be released from the ICU and moved to another part of the hospital to recover, he gave them a call.

"I said, 'Hey, we are going to be passing the door if you guys want to, I think it would be great for her to see your faces,'" he said.


It just was magical. My heart breaks that I just can't do that for everyone.

–Justin Ables, nurse


The family coordinated quick socially distanced gathering outside of the hospital. In all, 25 family members: children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered were there to greet Nana as she was wheeled to another part of the hospital.

"Instantly I'm tearing up, it just was magical," Ables said. "My heart breaks that I just can't do that for everyone. The circumstances just happen to line up that made this possible."

It may have been just another day on the job for nurse Ables, but for Nana's family, it meant the world.

"It made their day and it actually made her whole day to see everybody," Tune said.

Family hoped Nana's story would serve as a reminder to be grateful for the time you have with loved ones and to take COVID-19 precautions seriously during this pandemic.

"Real people are dying and when they are gone they are gone. Wear your mask, wash your hands and stay apart," Tune said.

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated Dian Tune's name. That has been corrected.

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Ashley Moser

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