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'I sang until she went to sleep,': Hospice nurses give last goodbye to patients as pandemic keeps families away

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Posted at 4:11 PM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 20:13:45-05

WACO, TX — Baylor Scott & White Hospice nurses work hard day in and out caring for those with little time left on this earth. In a pandemic, some of their patient's lives were cut even shorter due to contracting COVID-19.

Amber Gardner and Gina Stelley have both worked the front lines, caring for those in hospice and becoming closer to their patients than before.

"Usually there's family to be with the patient, and when there's no family you think, "Well, I'm it,"" Registered Nurse Gina Stelley said.

Stelley works with those who have little chance of going home, caring for inpatient hospice patients at the hospital.

"The hardest part is being the one to be there when the patient is passing when the family is not able to," she said

Stelley has watched many pass quickly this year. She had a patient who loved singing Christmas carols, and so that is what she did up until their final moments.

"Every time I stopped singing, she would move my hand like come on keep singing, and so I did, and I sang until she went to sleep, and she never woke up," Stelley said.

Amber Gardner has had a similar experience, working with patients in nursing homes and conducting home visits with patients who had COVID-19 and no family visitation.

"The biggest thing I've learned is just how important we are as nurses, being able to be there with the patient when the families can't," Gardner said.

Donned in more PPE gear than the average human, these nurses have gone above and beyond to make their patients feel like they're not alone.

"I used my phone and I FaceTimed with the family as my patient was actively dying, and that was very heartbreaking," Gardner said.

Each holiday season, Baylor Scott & White Hospice decorates their Light Up a Life trees in Richland Mall, in rememberance of those we have lost. This year, there are several more doves on the tree due to COVID-19.

"These lives on the tree, they're still lit up, and COVID is not going to take that light away," Gardner said.

Many will have one less person to talk to or see this holiday season, and it will be hard on many, more so on those who are watching people pass from the virus regularly. No matter the pain, Stelley and Gardner will continue their work on the front lines.

"But you still do your job and take care of the patients because that's what you do," Stelley said.