Providing Comfort at a Critical Time

It was a call the Emmerson family never expected. Their mother, Joan, had COVID-19 and was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH). Registered Nurse Karla was on the phone asking what music Joan enjoyed the most. The QCH team wanted to play it as Joan fought valiantly for her life.

Joan’s husband Brian was also a patient in the ICU. The nursing team provided the same loving care to him, and every effort was made to support the grief-stricken family. Registered Nurse Sherri ensured they had the time they needed to visit with their father. After the shock of their mother’s sudden, unexpected passing, Sherri knew how much it would mean to them to be there with him. 

It was a heartbreaking situation as Joan and Brian died within days of each other. In a heartfelt letter, the family praised the entire QCH team for their outstanding efforts: “Karla showed a sense of compassion that helped ease the pain we were all feeling – even if just a tiny bit. Sherri not only took care of Brian, but she also took care of us. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate the work you do. Thank you.”

QCH Clinical Director Lianne Learmonth says she witnesses this type of extraordinary care in the ICU every day:

“I can’t say enough about this nursing team. We thought they were champions before, but it has a whole new meaning now.”

There are about 60 Registered Nurses working in the ICU, alongside physicians, respiratory therapists, and other care providers. In addition, nurses from other areas of the hospital have stepped up, and stepped in, to help.  Eight new nurses will also be joining the team in the coming weeks.

Lianne Learmonth, Clinical Director of Critical Care, Medicine, Geriatrics, Discharge Services, Chronic Disease Management, RN, MN.

Nurses in the ICU are used to dealing with critically ill patients, but this is different. COVID-19 has shone a light on their unique role and their commitment to doing everything that needs to be done. And they are not done yet.

“It truly is a team effort,” says Lianne. “In the first wave, QCH saw the most COVID-19 patients in the city at first, and it was very difficult with so much unknown. Today, the patients are even sicker and younger. We sometimes have more than one family member at a time fighting COVID-19. We didn’t see that before.”

Lianne says many days are extremely hard – more patients are succumbing to COVID-19 and staff members are working long and exhausting shifts. They remain fearful they might bring the virus home to their families. “It sounds simple, but I just keep saying thank you, thank you, thank you to each member of our team. And I advocate for them to ensure they have the support and resources they need. Those needs will continue after COVID-19 as well. This team has been through a lot and we need to continue to focus on wellness.”

Despite this, Lianne says there is hope. As more people are vaccinated, the future looks brighter. “Our team just keeps going. They are doing all the right things. I don’t even have the words to describe how truly inspirational and exceptional these nurses are right now,” she says. “They are doing everything they can to support our patients – and one another.”

In their thank you letter, the Emmerson family summed up the impact:

“In a time where we were unable to be with our loved one, you gave us comfort in knowing she was not alone, and someone who truly cared was there with her. Thank you.”


In celebration of our QCH nurses and healthcare team, we are asking you to support Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH) and help save lives in our community by making a donation to our hospital. Thanks to an anonymous donor all donations will be matched up to $30,000, which means your gift will go twice as far!