LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Keiko Netuz’s last time in the hospital was different than any other visit.
“It was a very abrupt adjustment,” said her daughter, Debbie Taylor.
The mother of eight, grandmother to 28 and great-grandmother of 10 was used to her family taking shifts and being by her side 24-7 during visits to the doctor. COVID-19 meant different circumstances.
“[We] had to trust her care over to the nurses," Taylor explained.
Julia Hunt was assigned to Keiko, 87, during her first two days at Norton Brownsboro Hospital at the end of March. Unable to talk to the family in person, she communicated through phone, and eventually, they would talk through video chat.
“It was kind of our first jolt of reality, like this is what's going on, and kind of the different things we're going to have to face,” Hunt said.
Audrey Waters took over during Keiko’s last night. As family stayed connected through the screen, it became clear the connection they created together was one the coronavirus couldn’t compete with.
“I knew in our heart our prayers were answered. They looked at mom as more than a patient,” Taylor said. “I had great anxiety thinking that our mother was going to pass without one of us there, and Nurse Julia had promised me that she would hold mom's hand and pray with her as she passed."
On the morning on March 30, it was time to say goodbye.
“Mom actually had two loving people next to her,” Ed Neutz said.
“We not only got one person, one nurse, holding her hand. We got two," granddaughter Lacy Taylor said. "One on each side of her, holding both of her hands. So really, we couldn't have asked for more."
“[They were] not just do their job of taking care of someone, but they really showed their heart,” Bobby Neutz, Keiko’s son, son.
It was a promise Hunt and Waters had made, and a promise they were determined to keep.
“It was such a huge honor, and such a small request at a time like this,” said Waters.
Keiko's kids logged onto their tablets, like they had done the entire weekend, and watched their mom pass peacefully.
“We were with mom spiritually, she could feel us. And they were with mom in a physical sense,” Carl Neutz said.
Hunt and Waters were sent to do their job, but this family feels as though they did so much more.
“They did go above and beyond and they didn't have to do that... but we're very thankful they did,” said daughter-in-law, Kelly Neutz.
Through life, Keiko was characterized by her kindness. Her family believes she was met with that same compassion at the end.
“The foundation of her life, is, was love... so, it just came back to her,” said Bobby.
Keiko was one of Waters’ first patients with COVID-19, and she said she’s equally grateful to the family for providing a positive learning curve while figuring out how to navigate communication during such complicated times.
“It is absolutely one of those things that touched my heart and I will never forget,” Waters said.
Waters and Hunt have been invited to the next Neutz family reunion once social distancing rules are lifted. They’re just one example of nurses building bonds beyond the hospital bed.
After Keiko's death, her family launched the Keiko Neutz Amazing Grace Foundation, where they collect and donate tablets to area hospitals so that other families can feel connected to their loved ones.
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