After spending several days on high-flow oxygen and still struggling to breathe, a patient with COVID-19 being cared for in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) turned to his nurse, Jessica Thompson, BSN, RN. He had hoped to avoid the need for intubation, but the time for an intervention had come. “I can’t do this anymore,” he told her.
With tenderness and compassion, Thompson sat with her patient and explained what would happen next. He nodded. As she began preparing the room for the intubation team, Thompson saw her patient take out his smartphone and begin watching videos of his grandchildren. Tears rolled down his cheeks.
The moment hit close to home for Thompson, who said she would remember that patient forever.
“I know that’s what my parents would have done,” said Thompson, sharing the memory during a virtual Remembrance Ceremony on April 20, which provided an opportunity for the Brigham community to collectively honor the lives saved during the pandemic, remember those lost due to COVID-19 and look forward with hope.
The 30-minute ceremony, hosted by Spiritual Care Services and webcast via Zoom, also featured reflections from hospital leaders, music, a reading in Spanish and a discussion about resiliency and support resources for staff. The timing of the event closely coincided with when the Brigham’s COVID-19 census peaked during the first surge, hitting 171 patients on April 22, 2020.
The ceremony also marked the launch of a new display, Hearts on the Bridge, located on the Shapiro bridge. The display features more than 1,700 blue hearts to symbolize the number of patients with COVID-19 who were cared for and discharged from the Brigham, as well as 176 yellow hearts to represent the number of patients who passed away due to COVID-19 since last March.
Between April 20 and May 4, staff are encouraged to view the display and use white hearts to write their own remembrances in memory or in honor of someone affected by COVID-19, or a short personal message, and post it on the designated windows in Shapiro.
Kathleen Gallivan, SDNdeN, PhD, director of Spiritual Care Services, opened the Remembrance Ceremony by recognizing the collective trauma this pandemic has caused and the healing process that many people continue to navigate.
Sunny Eappen, MD, interim president and chief medical officer, reflected on the enormous effect the pandemic has had on our lives over the past year and encouraged staff to pause, grieve if needed and find some measure of peace.
“All of us have been impacted in some way. It might’ve been someone you cared for, whom you served food to or whose room you may have cleaned,” said Eappen, who mourned the loss of his own uncle due to COVID-19. “It’s been an incredibly challenging time for all of us, and we’ll forever be changed as a result of being here at the Brigham during this time. We are now seeing a light — a light for today and a light for the future.”
The ceremony also featured a musical selection, “Amazing Grace,” performed by Sasha DuBois, MSN, RN, nursing director for the IV Therapy Team and PCA Float Pool, with piano accompaniment by Andrew Heintz, M.Div, STM, a chaplain in Spiritual Care Services.
Mayra Scott, shipping coordinator in Materials Management, led a Spanish-language reading of the poem “We Remember Them” by Rabbi Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer.
Sejal Shah, MD, chief of the Division of Medical Psychiatry, provided an overview of resources available to support staff and tips for building resiliency.
Thompson, who cared for the first COVID-positive ICU patient admitted to the Brigham, was invited to share her perspective as a front-line provider during the event.
“I think we’ve all been through a lot as a community, and we’re all changed for it. I’m one of a hundred nurses on my unit, and we all have stories like this,” she said. “But we all have a little bit of hope now — hope that the worst is behind us and that maybe this year is going to be better than the last.”