Life and death in a pandemic: daughter of man who died in hospital thanks nurse who held his hand

Restrictions kept daughter from dying father’s bedside

Life and death in a pandemic: daughter of man who died in hospital thanks nurse who held his hand

SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, and in some cases, the way we die.

Several weeks ago an 81-year-old man died at Novant Health in Rowan. Due to the restrictions, his family couldn’t be with him. However, through the extraordinary efforts of a nurse, their wishes for his comfort were met.

“My whole world just fell apart," said LuAnn Ratliff, whose father died in April not long after the death of her mother. “His name was Edward Burkett but everybody called him Eddie."

Eddie had a lot of health issues according to his daughter.

Several weeks ago he was admitted to Novant Health Rowan Medical Center after falling. His condition got worse and it was clear the end was near. Ratliff desperately wanted to be with her father, but the COVID-19 pandemic made that impossible.

She could have seen him, she said, but then she would have had to go into a self-quarantine for nearly two weeks. Ratliff said that since she has custody of a special needs grandchild, being in quarantine was not an option.

She was able to speak with her father by phone.

“I said, ‘I love you, I’ll talk to you tomorrow,’ those were the last words that I said," Ratliff said.

But as death approached, Ratliff made a request of the nurse who was caring for Eddie.

“I told her that I didn’t want my dad to suffer and I did not want him to be alone, and it was breaking my heart because I couldn’t be there," Ratliff said.

Answering that request was Novant Health nurse Julie Jordan.

“And I promised her that I would stay there, and I would be with him,” Jordan said.

Jordan has been a nurse for Novant six years and worked for years prior to that in a doctor’s practice.

“It’s not just a job, it’s a calling," Jordan said. "When you do this, you’re meant to do this, everybody has a purpose and this is my purpose. It makes me feel good to be able to help other people, even in tragic times.”

“She said she held his hand when he died," Jordan said.

Eddie died peacefully with Jordan at his side.

“Most families can be there, so they have that connection with you, to her I was just a voice on the phone, that was it," Jordan said. “It’s hard on the families because they can’t be there, so you try to be that bridge.”

On Saturday, for the first time, Ratliff met Jordan in person. Ratliff just wanted her to know how grateful she is.

“There’s not enough money in the world, there’s not a Hallmark card, I don’t know that there are the proper words in the dictionary to convey how much I appreciate what he did, she didn’t have to," Ratliff said.

“We stand there with our patients, you know, we fight with our patients," Jordan said.

Ratliff gave Jordan a bouquet of flowers and chocolates.

They wanted to hug each other, but out of respect for social distancing, decided to put that off, for now.

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