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Intubated Covid-19 patient plays violin to thank health care workers

"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," nurse Matt Harper said.

A retired orchestra teacher who was hospitalized with Covid-19 played his violin as a tribute to nurses and doctors who had been caring for him.

Grover Wilhelmsen, who was hospitalized at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah, for over a month, couldn’t speak while intubated and instead communicated with the health care staff through writing.

After writing to Ciara Sase, a nurse and one of his caregivers, that he wanted to play his violin to thank the staff, Sase coordinated with Wilhelmsen’s wife of 47 years to bring the instrument into the hospital. As long as Sase stayed in his room to monitor his vitals, doctors agreed that Wilhelmsen could play.

In a video posted on YouTube by the hospital’s parent company Intermountain Healthcare, Wilhelmsen can be heard playing the "Tennessee Waltz" while Sase looks on. Although ICU rooms are kept shut, Sase said she turned on her Vocera, a communication device used in hospital settings, so her colleagues could hear Wilhelmsen play.

“It brought tears to my eyes. For all the staff to see a patient doing this while intubated was unbelievable,” Sase said, according to a press release from Intermountain Healthcare. “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.”

Image: Grover Wilhelmsen
"He truly is special and made a mark on all of us," nurse Ciara Sase said, pictured here with Grover Wilhelmsen. "When I started to cry in the room after he was done playing, he wrote to me, 'Quit crying. Just smile,' and he smiled at me."Courtesy Intermountain Healthcare

Sase said Wilhelmsen played his violin for staff multiple times for a couple days. He was recently discharged from the ICU to a long-term care facility where he’s expected to make a full recovery, the hospital said.

Covid-19 cases are rising rapidly throughout the country, including in Utah, which has reported over 160,000 cases and 740 deaths.