Nurse Lindsey Fairchild has spent her days caring for some of the sickest COVID-19 patients at her Florida hospital. But last month, she found herself in a position she never expected: outside the glass window of a hospital room, watching her father die from the coronavirus.
“You want to break the door down, you want to go in and be with your family member,” she said.
Her father, Wayne Oney, was a proud grandfather, husband and dad who loved animals, the beach and talking to just about anyone he could, Fairchild said. He died November 8 at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, Ohio.
Moments before he died, Fairchild snapped a photo from behind the glass of him surrounded by his nurses. She said she wanted to show people what the virus is really like for patients, families and healthcare professionals.
“It’s a painful reflection in a piece of glass,” she wrote in a Facebook post where she shared the photo. “It’s a husband, and a father, and a grandfather, and a friend crossing over without his family surrounding him as he does. It’s nurses holding the cold hands of dying patients over and over again.
"It’s machines that have been shut off because a virus beat them at their own game. It’s a daughter capturing her father’s last moments on a phone so people can see it in its rawest form. This picture is COVID-19.”
Oney, 69, had mild asthma and diabetes but was in good shape, his daughter said. Over time, his symptoms got worse. First, he developed a cough, high fever, body aches and chills. Eventually, he was admitted to the hospital and taken directly to the intensive care unit. Around the 10th day, he took a turn for the worse.
“He had a little bit of a coughing fit, and they just were unable to get his oxygen up after that,” Fairchild said. “I was at work that night taking care of a COVID patient myself and I got a phone call from a nurse practitioner who told me, ‘I'm really sorry to have to tell you this, but we are going to have to intubate him. He's not doing well’”
Over the next few days, her father’s condition worsened, so Fairchild flew to Ohio to see him. As soon as she arrived, she knew things wouldn’t get better.
“It was basically just the body in a bed. It was not my dad,” she said. “You could tell that his soul had already left his body and it was basically just keeping alive a physical being.”
After a 26-day battle with the virus, Fairchild’s family made the difficult decision to withdraw her father’s care.
Fairchild hopes her family's story will force others to pause and consider how the virus may affect not only them, but everyone around them, too.
“We have to do what we can to protect our communities and our country and our neighbors, whether you know those people or not,” she said. “Everybody has a responsibility. Not just healthcare workers, not just older people and not just the people with co-morbidities that are more susceptible to being sick.”
This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.