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'I couldn't save either one of them,' says ICU nurse who lost her husband and mom to COVID-19

"This got brought into our home. My mom never left the house. My husband was so careful. Stop being selfish," she said.

'I couldn't save either one of them,' says ICU nurse who lost her husband and mom to COVID-19
Cover Image Source: A nurse wearing PPE in the room of a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Sharp Memorial Hospital on May 6, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Last week, Oklahoma City ICU nurse Lizanne Jennings witnessed her husband, Dennis, take his last breath. "Are you ready to be at peace?" she recalled asking him as she comforted him in the moments before he succumbed to COVID-19 on November 23. "'He said, 'Uh-huh.' And I said, 'OK. Mom's fine. She's back at the house. She's going to stay with me.' Because I knew he would keep fighting if I told him my mom had already died. And so they started giving him morphine and Ativan. I turned him over and I rubbed his back. I said, 'I love you.' He said, 'I love you.' And I said, "You're going to go now, OK? You can finally be at peace,'" she recounted the heartbreaking conversation to CNN.



30 minutes later, Dennis took his last breath and Jennings was left without her support systems. Her mother, Linda—who had also been infected with COVID-19—had passed away just three days earlier and her son Brayden, an attorney, couldn't be by his mom's side as he had also tested positive for the virus. "It's just so raw," she said. "Sometimes I'm grieving for my husband and then I realize my mom's gone. And I'm grieving for my mom. I just think ... oh, I'm going to go tell Dennis but then Dennis is gone. So the two people that would have been so supportive ... you know, they're both gone."



Jennings added that the sense of losing two of their loved ones left her and her sons feeling like they were drowning. "As we go down, we're trying to push the other one back up to take a breath," she said. "It didn't have to be this way... Our family didn't have to be gutted." Brayden lamented not being able to be there to support his mom after his dad's death, saying: "It's kind of like we're broken, but we're continuing to break. And at that time when I got that positive result that, that took away her support system. They were both in the hospital, and I couldn't come hug my mom because I couldn't get her sick."



Jennings and Brayden remembered Dennis, who had beaten his son in a pushup contest before falling ill, as strong and "full of life." However, as he neared his end, the ICU nurse watched him lying on his stomach in a hospital bed. Moments after his death, she bathed him and cut his hair. "And then I left him," said Jennings. "There's nothing else. I couldn't save either one of them. If people don't wear masks, they don't want to wear a mask... This got brought into our home. My mom never left the house. My husband was so careful. Stop being selfish. Stop being selfish. That's all."



Months before Dennis' death, in March when the first wave of the pandemic had just hit America, Jennings remembers talking to her husband about how much worse things were going to get. "'Look at me. This is going to get bad. This is going to get so bad,'" she told him. "I said, 'One of us could die and I need you to hear that and I need you to wear your mask and I need you to hand sanitize. And so he did... Mom stayed home for eight and a half months. And so you have people that are doing everything right and we didn't get to hug my mom and we didn't go anywhere... And we still lost them. It doesn't matter how strong you are. People are like, 'Oh man, Dennis is so strong. He's going to make it.' It happens no matter what. The virus keeps winning."


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