Family returns to cheer on hospital nurses who supported them as father battled COVID-19

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(ABC News) – The Johnson family of Manchester, New Hampshire, spent almost two weeks standing outside of Catholic Medical Center as their father, Rene, was treated for COVID-19.

“Every day we would just try to do a little something different … to try to feel close to our dad,” Angela Daneault told ABC affiliate WMUR on Monday.

They could not be by his side, but they grew to know the nurses who would come to his window daily to keep them abreast of his condition. The nurses would put up signs that read: “We will make sure he’s comfortable and in no pain,” “We will tell him you love him” and “We will hold his hand.”

Courtesy Angela DaneaultRene Johnson died on Sunday of COVID-19.Rene Johnson died on Sunday of COVID-19.Courtesy Angela Daneault

The Johnsons even made their own sign, sending a message back to the hospital’s staff: “Thank you, nurses.”

But a week and a half into Rene Johnson’s fight, the nurses had to share a difficult message with his five children: He had died. At the window on Sunday, the staff left messages: “He is at peace” and “We are so sorry.”MORE: ICU nurse talks how COVID-19 has changed her life

The family was heartbroken over the loss of their father, but returned to the hospital on Monday to show their gratitude to the nurses and doctors at Catholic Medical Center who’d communicated with them every step of the way through those windows.

“They went beyond,” Kevin Johnson, Rene’s son, told WMUR on Monday.

Courtesy Angela DaneaultThe nurses at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire, leave messages about Rene Johnson for his family and five children to see.The nurses at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire, leave messages about Rene Johnson for his family and five children to see.Courtesy Angela Daneault

And the nurses said the staff at Catholic Medical Center loved the Johnsons back.

“They were kind of famous to the staff here because everyone would come in from their shift and say, ‘Oh, is the family out there?’ And everyone would go to the window and wave,” said nurse Lynn Harkins.

On Tuesday, the Johnson family again took their places outside of the hospital. Daneault told ABC News on Tuesday that the family would continue showing love and support to the hospital’s ICU staff, but also its patients battling coronavirus.

“We’re extremely grateful for everything they did for our family. We continue to gather out here for a vigil just to show support and love for other COVID-19 patients that might not have their families out here,” she said.

Courtesy Angela DaneaultThe Johnson family leave a message for the nurses at Catholic Medical Center. Their father, Rene Johnson, died of COVID-19 on Sunday.The Johnson family leave a message for the nurses at Catholic Medical Center. Their father, Rene Johnson, died of COVID-19 on Sunday.Courtesy Angela Daneault

Kevin Johnson told ABC News that the nurses and doctors were the heroes in this pandemic.

“Words can’t say enough on what these people did for my father. … I really wish I could have held his hand and kissed him. … I loved my father so much. … I just really miss him,” Kevin Johnson said.

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