‘Today I held his hand’: B.C. nurse pens heartbreaking poem after COVID-19 patient dies

An intensive-care nurse in Vancouver has written a touching poem about his final moments with a patient who died of COVID-19.

Doug Rae, an ICU outreach nurse at St. Paul’s Hospital, had been helping to look after Ray Buchanan, an accomplished, 89-year-old costume designer who’d worked in theatre and film.

Buchanan had recently returned from an overseas trip to London, where he may have contracted the virus.

He was put into isolation in hospital and began to fade. Rae did his best to make sure Buchanan stayed in touch with family and friends by phone.

Shortly before Buchanan passed, Rae called Buchanan’s friend, Tom Sinclair, and told him he didn’t want the elderly man to be alone in what might be his final moments.

“We said the things we wanted to say — how much we cared about him,” Sinclair said of his final conversation with his friend.

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“It was just — how do you describe it? You say ‘good-bye’ and you feel that passing.”

Not long after the phone call, Buchanan stopped breathing on his own.

No matter how long he’s been on the job, Rae said, saying good-bye to a patient for the final time takes a toll.

“It doesn’t get easier. The beauty of this, though, is that it shouldn’t get any easier,” he said.

“For me, I always believe that I should let these things affect me to some degree because then I know I’m still human and I still care.”

Here is Rae’s poem:

Today I held his hand
I told him
He was strong
This virus had
Taken over
No more fighting
To be done

Today I held his hand
And in the other
Held a phone
His family said
We love you
It’s time to say
Goodbye

Today I held his hand
As I hung up
On that phone
His breathing pattern
Changed
His heart beating
No more

Today I held his hand
Tears behind my
Plastic face mask
This protective suit
I’m wearing
Cannot shield
humanity

Today I held his hand
So he wouldn’t be
alone.

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