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Inspiring Stories

‘She Cared Deeply’: Nurse’s Care of COVID-19 Patient Leaves Lasting Impact

Published: March 10, 2021

When Jim Hegarty thinks about his brother Dan Hegarty’s time in the Methodist Hospital Critical Care Unit, a wave of emotions comes flooding back.

The sorrow of losing a sibling was compounded by the family’s inability to be by Dan’s side as his battle with COVID-19 drew to a close. But there was also a silver lining, said Jim, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) regional office in Omaha.

Several weeks after Dan’s death in August, Jim sent a note to the BBB board of directors sharing details of the compassion his family experienced.

“Our hearts were broken when we lost Dan, but our spirits were enriched, inspired and lifted up by the goodness and unselfishness we witnessed in the people that loved a stranger as if he were one of their own,” he wrote.

That message set off a chain of events that culminated with a nurse being honored for her role in caring for Dan and his family when they needed it most.

 

Dan Hegarty
Dan Hegarty

“He Was Not Alone”

Dan was “bigger than life,” his brother said.

After decades of work for Union Pacific, the retired grandfather stayed busy with two of his longtime interests: physical fitness and helping others.

“He was very healthy,” Jim said. “He worked out religiously. He was also extremely involved in prison ministry. He had a soft spot for people with addiction issues and was very dedicated to helping people find their way out of that way of life.”

Everything changed in early July when Dan and his wife, Chris, developed COVID-19. Both were admitted to Methodist Hospital as their conditions worsened. Chris was able to rebound and return home after six days, but Dan faced a longer road. He was taken to the Critical Care Unit and placed on a ventilator within two days of arriving. Visitor restrictions kept his family from being by his side, and instead they relied on calls with staff to learn the latest. 

“For 28 days, we met with him on Zoom at night. Every night,” Jim said. “He was unconscious that whole time, but those calls were facilitated for us just so we could talk to him and get updates on any progress.”

These were dark days with feelings of uncertainty, frustration and helplessness. But, as Jim later wrote, “While it was tragic that my brother Dan’s last month of life was spent without his family by his side, he was not alone.”

 

Jim Hegarty
Jim Hegarty

Caring for Patient and Family

Jim said the care Dan received from the hospital staff was “beyond extraordinary,” but one nurse stood out: Amanda Harvey, BSN, RN, who often facilitated the video calls.

“It was so obvious that she cared deeply for Dan and for us,” Jim said of the Nebraska Methodist College alumna. “She was just so incredibly kind, the way in which she spoke to him and the comfort that she was continually trying to provide.”

Harvey was always asking questions to learn more about Dan and make him comfortable. She wanted to know about his family, what kind of music he liked and how he liked his hair combed. When she learned he had suffered a painful leg injury years before, she wanted to know how to best wrap his leg and foot to ease any pain.

“I try really hard to take care of my patients like I would if they were my family,” Harvey said. “I would like to say they were personal touches, but I was guided by his family that had so much love for him and so much sorrow because they couldn't be there.”

Her care extended to the family, as well. 

“She was continually asking us how she could be of help to us, and what information did we need?” Jim said.

And every morning when her shift ended, she’d call a family member, often Jim – “just to give me an update and let me know that he had made it through the night and he was doing OK. She just wanted to be sure that I didn’t worry. It was amazing.”

For a time, it appeared Dan might rally. He was taken off the ventilator in late July and showing some signs of improvement.

“There were a couple nights with Amanda where she was really encouraging him,” Jim said. “She was just reinforcing to him that we were there, and could he try to acknowledge us or say anything? There were a couple of brief moments of him looking at us and nodding his head, like he knew we were there. That was very powerful for us, because we thought that perhaps he was going to make it.”

But Dan soon took a turn for the worse and was placed back on the ventilator. He died on Aug. 2 after battling COVID-19 and its effects for a month.

 

Amanda Harvey, BSN, RN
Amanda Harvey, BSN, RN

A Surprise Award

After Jim shared his note with the BBB board, it found its way back to Methodist Hospital. With Jim’s permission, Harvey was nominated for The DAISY Award, which honors extraordinary skill and compassion in nursing. She was surprised with the award in January. 

 “I am so honored that I was able to give care that was on par with their family,” she said. “I feel like that is almost unachievable. Who could take care of your family better than family?”

But, she added: “It seemed unfair that I should be picked out of so many of the folks who took care of Dan. It was an honor, of course, but we all took care of him. I wished that we all were getting the award.”

While Jim initially wanted to show colleagues the beauty that can be found in difficult times, he’s glad his message went further and hopes it inspires health care workers facing challenges and frustrations.

“I think of all the people whose spirits need to be lifted, they need to be reminded that what they’re doing makes a difference,” he said.

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About the Author

Patrick Smith, a content strategist for Methodist Health System, has over a decade of experience writing and editing for newspapers and other publications. He enjoys meeting new people and telling stories that highlight Methodist's mission to deliver The Meaning of Care.

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