Patient hospitalized for COVID-19 plays violin to thank caregivers while intubated

National and World News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) — One patient hospitalized due to COVID-19 decided to give back to his caregivers at McKay-Dee Hospital.

Grover Wilhelmsen reportedly asked if he could play his violin for them while in the ICU to help lift their spirits. He couldn’t speak to them while intubated, but he could show them his appreciation through music, according to health officials.

Ciara Sase, a Registered Nurse at the hospital was taking care of Wilhelmsen when she learned about his idea of playing.

“He was intubated and unable to talk, but I knew from the other nurses that he’s a retired orchestra teacher. He’s been playing and teaching his entire life,” she said.

Sase said Wilhelmsen was communicating with her on a piece of paper and he began telling her about his history with music and how much joy it brings him. She says,

“Toward the middle of my shift he wrote, ‘You know, I really want to play here at the hospital. What do you think about my wife bringing in my violin and viola?’” Sase said.

“I said to him, ‘We’d love to hear you play, it would bring so much brightness and positivity into our environment,'” she continued.

Sase and her coworkers worked out details to safely get an instrument to Wilhelmsen and cleared it with hospital officials. Hospital officials also monitored his health and vitals closely as he played for them.

Wilhelmsen’s wife, Diana, brought both his violin and viola into the hospital, along with some music books.

Wilhelmsen reportedly played for a few hours for two days in a row. 

Since ICU rooms have glass doors that are kept shut, Sase turned on her Vocera, a communication device that helped everyone outside the glass hear, so her colleagues could hear him play through the glass.

About a dozen caregivers reportedly gathered to watch and listen in the ICU. Wilhelmsen played songs including the “Tennessee Waltz” and lots of church hymns.

“It brought tears to my eyes. For all the staff to see a patient doing this while intubated was unbelievable,” Sase said. “Even though he was so sick, he was still able to push through. You could see how much it meant to him. Playing kind of helped to soothe his nerves and brought him back to the moment.”

“It was honestly shocking to be there when he picked up the violin. It felt like I was in a dream,” said registered nurse Matt Harper. “I’m used to patients being miserable or sedated while being intubated, but Grover made an unfortunate situation into something positive. This was by far one of my favorite memories in the ICU that I’ve had. It was a small light in the darkness of COVID.”

After spending more than a month battling COVID-19 at McKay-Dee, Wilhelmsen was recently discharged from the ICU to a long-term acute care facility where he’s expected to recover, according to hospital officials. 

His wife told hospital officials he’s currently too weak to play, but when he gets his strength back, he’ll pick up his violin and return to his passion for music. 

The story was shared on Intermountain Healthcare’s website. Learn more about the story at Intermountain Healthcare.

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