Final moments for COVID patients spent with family

Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 6:35 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The pandemic has stripped families of many things these last few months, but health care providers in the Roanoke Valley are doing what they can to make sure it does not rob someone of their final moments with a loved one.

At the end of September, Gary Larrowe watched his mother get rolled away to the COVID ward at Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

Five days later, Colene Larrowe died at 87 years old.

“It’s been very difficult not to cry one minute and then laugh the next,” Gary Larrowe said.

Colene was a mother, a grandmother and a fighter. Hanging on in the last moments of her life to see her two sons.

“It was an incredible blessing that was given to us. To actually have those last moments with her,” Larrowe said.

Carilion Clinic has been giving families like the Larrowes the opportunity to say goodbye.

“I think that one will stay with me forever actually,” Carilion Clinic Nurse Samantha DeLieto said.

DeLieto works on the COVID ward and helped care for Colene.

“She was one of the most beautiful situations to be a part of. Her family was going to take a little while to get there and I wasn’t sure how much time she had left,” DeLieto said.

But Colene held on long enough for Gary and his brother to be there for her final moments.

That time together is powerful and important, not only for the patient, but for the family members, DeLieto said.

“So many people die alone, and that’s heartbreaking, but I am very thankful to have been part of several cases where family was able to get there and I hope that we get more of those,” she said.

Carilion said it takes a lot of coordination to make those moments possible, but the extra work is worth it.

“I guess you could say our goal is for patients to have a good death and be able to address the emotional, the spiritual as long as the physical, is really important to us,” Chaplain Services Director Richard Brown said.

And important to families like the Larrowes.

“What I saw was compassion,” Gary Larrowe said.

It is that empathy that is helping their family begin to heal.

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