LOUISVILLE, Ky. — There are moments in life that we treasure and hold onto. Those are the moments we just as easily miss once the people who helped make those memories are gone.
For Keiko Neutz, her entire life was surrounded by family. But the COVID-19 pandemic would make it so that in those final moments, she was alone.
“We're the type of family, we spend the night with her and stay there all day,” her oldest daughter Debbie Taylor said.
Keiko had been sick with pneumonia through March, and later tested positive for COVID -19 last week. The nature of the illness kept her large family from the hospital.
“It was just a very helpless feeling because we had no control over the situation or to continue the normal care of our mom,” Taylor said.
Keiko was getting weaker. She couldn’t physically hold up a phone, and needed a nurse to set up any type of FaceTime.
Taylor’s daughter Lacy, one of Keiko’s 28 grandchildren, got creative. She downloaded HouseParty onto a laptop her grandmother could keep close by. The app is designed so that up to eight people can pop in and out of a ‘house party’ at any time, and does not require a schedule.
“Every single family member, eight kids, 28 grandkids and I'm pretty sure all ten great grandchildren got to see her,” Lacy said.
As Keiko became less verbal, they used it to converse with the nurses.
“When they were in the room they could give us her stats, they didn't have to call us anymore,” Lacy said. “We were able to say, ‘hey I think she needs some extra water,’ or ‘hey she's cold, could you bring her a blanket.’”
At 87 years old, Keiko died just a few days after testing positive for coronavirus. Thankfully, technology allowed her to take her last breath surrounded by family.
“We were able to sing for her, and pray for her and play her favorite music,” Lacy said.
They may not have been there for her physically, but nurses took care of that.
“She was so comfortable and relaxed that, in sleeping, she didn't know [if] Audrey Waters, the nurse, was the one holding her hand, or if it was us, and that was very comforting.”
The Taylors believe others deserve these moments. They have created the Keiko Neutz Amazing Grace Foundation and decided to collect tablets to give away to other families who are trying to stay connected during such uncertain times.
They’ve collected a dozen so far, and hope to not only share them with hospital patients, but other loved ones, in nursing homes for example, that cannot see their family.
“We just could not believe, after all the times we had taken care of her, she was going to die from the coronavirus alone. How did that happen?” Debbie Taylor said. “Now we're like, okay, we understand. My mom would've loved to know she was helping other people. What a way to go out, she wouldn't have wanted it any other way.”
For more information on the Keiko Neutz Amazing Grace Foundation, visit keikoneutzamazinggrace.org