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Hometown Healing: Martin County couple dies holding hands after battling COVID-19

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 8:36 PM EST
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MARTIN COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) -ICU nurses have become more than just caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have become family for many patients battling the deadly virus, including a couple at Martin General Hospital, who nurses comforted in their last moments of life.

Dawn Wilson works as a nurse in the ICU at Martin General Hospital and says she’s still getting used to life in a pandemic. “It’s just changed everything. It changed how I go home. I go through my back door. I don’t come through the front door to hug my children. I go through the back door to the laundry room to take off my clothes, put on a nightgown to go shower right away.”

At work, she says it’s almost non-stop COVID patients, a revolving door of people who need help.

They used to put them at ease with a smile or a hug. But lately, she says, “We have to be fully gowned when we go into our COVID rooms. So not only can they not see our face, we’re coming in with yellow gowns on, which at times can be scary for people who are sick and already scared.”

With families barred and patients isolated, Wilson says they had to be there, medically and emotionally. And now, they were family. She says, “You just saying that gives me chills because it’s different now in nursing. With COVID coming, you see them and the only people they see is us going in and out that door.”

Jeremy Langley, a registered nurse at Martin General Hospital says, “By then, you know them. I know most of my patients better than I know most of my family.”

So, when Betty Lou and Jerry Savage came along, that’s just what they became.

Wilson says, “They were like our dad and mom, and we wanted the best for them.”

Way back when, he played football, and she cheered from the sidelines. Like something out of a fairy tale, they were high school sweethearts, living life together for 67 years. But when they were admitted for COVID-19 in September, nurses kept them separate and intubated them. During that time, they learned about the Savages’ love story.

Wilson says, “Every day I’d come in, I would always pray and hope that they’d be a step closer to getting that tube out.”

About a week later, they had done all they could. The nurses wheeled Jerry into Betty Lou’s room.

Wilson says, “3 o’clock we were dreading that because we know that was when we were going to put them together and that would be the last time together here on Earth. But we also took comfort knowing that they were going to be together in Heaven.”

They were hand in hand in life and in death.

Wilson says, “To let him know that he was holding his wife’s hand was a moment that I’ll never forget because when I told him that, he had a tear that came down his eye. So I knew he heard me and I knew he was where he needed to be. There for his wife.”

It’s all part of being a health care worker, in a global pandemic.

Wilson commented, “A lot of people think nurses are unemotional. Let me tell you, we are emotional. We have cried over patients. Because we take it to heart. Because we know during this pandemic, that families can’t be in there with their family, we know it’s not fair. And so we do take it to heart. And we are very - we’re human. We try to leave things at work, but sometimes you can’t.”

Betty Lou and Jerry Savage died on the same day in early October 2020, but have been kept alive in the hearts of their family and those who cared for them in the hospital.

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