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Surprise Window Visit Makes the Day of Methodist Hospital Stroke Patient and Her Family

From the Heart
Published: April 15, 2020


Katherine (Kasey) Waring, 87, had made quite the comeback after suffering a broken hip in January 2020.

She worked hard to get back to 100% so she could continue doing the things she loves: Tai Chi, yoga, visiting friends for coffee, attending daily mass and checking in with her seven children, 21 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

She was well on her way to a full recovery when she was dealt another setback earlier this month – a stroke. She was taken to Methodist Hospital just four days after the health system implemented a no visitor policy as a precautionary response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Thank goodness she understands why we’re not there,” said Mary Ellen Hurley, one of Kasey’s daughters, as she tried to hold back tears. “But she needs encouragement right now, and we can’t be there to give it to her.”


More than a communication liaison

Like many Methodist Health System employees in the wake of this pandemic, Nora Gruhn, a rehabilitation technician at Methodist Hospital, has taken on a few additional duties. The one that’s kept her the busiest is organizing communication – primarily phone calls – between patients and their loved ones.

When Gruhn reached out to Mary Ellen to arrange communication with her mother, she knew any kind of phone call would prove difficult. Kasey’s speech had been significantly impaired as a result of her stroke.

“So I asked if my mother had a window in her room,” Mary Ellen said, “thinking she might be able to see us if we arranged a visit. Just to wave from the outside. Just to say hi. Just to say we’re thinking of you.”

“She definitely has a window,” Gruhn said. “But it faces 84th Street. That wasn’t going to work. So I told Mary Ellen, ‘Let me do some thinking.’”

And Gruhn did a lot of it.

“I just couldn’t imagine not being with your family when you’re recovering in the hospital,” she said.

Gruhn walked various floors of the hospital until she found what she thought might be the perfect spot: the second floor pathology breezeway. Because the hospital windows are tinted, she recruited some coworkers to help test whether a window visit would even be visible from that location.

“They weren’t going to be able to see Kasey,” Gruhn said. “But Kasey was certainly going to be able to see them. So we arranged the visit, and we also arranged FaceTime.”

“Just so that we could see Mom’s face,” Mary Ellen said. “I think I, personally, kind of wanted to see Nora, too. I wanted to see the woman behind all this.”


The encouragement they all needed

On the Saturday before Easter, more than 20 of Kasey’s loved ones surprised her on the lawn near the hospital’s south entrance. They made signs. They waved big. And they wore even bigger smiles.

Kasey’s reaction when Gruhn wheeled her to the window?

“Oh, you could tell she was emotional,” Mary Ellen said.

And the thought of that moment made Mary Ellen emotional, too.

Holding back more tears, she continued: “She just kept saying over and over, ‘I … love it. I … love it.’ She pointed to us on the screen, and you could see her waving. It was incredible.”

While the visit was meant for Kasey, “It was what we needed, too,” Mary Ellen said. And she’s beyond grateful to Gruhn for making it happen.

“It was like she recognized how hard this all is,” Mary Ellen said.

“We all recognize it,” Gruhn said. “And I think we all hope that if it were one of our family members, someone would do the same for us.”

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Jessica Gill

About the Author:

Jessica Gill, a Content Strategist for Methodist Health System, is a former television news anchor and journalist. She has a passion for story-telling and illustrating Methodist’s Meaning of Care.

See More Articles by Jessica Gill