Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital ICU caregivers in Ogden were able to repay their gratitude to 70-year-old Grover Wilhelmsen, as they bid farewell to the COVID-19 patient who captured the hearts of people worldwide after video of him playing the violin in the ICU while intubated to thank his caregivers went viral.
Wilhelmsen was admitted to McKay-Dee Hospital on October 8, 2020, with COVID-19 and was intubated as part of his treatment.
During his stay in the ICU, he wrote his nurse, Ciara Sase, RN, a note asking if he could play the violin for her and other caregivers in the unit to thank them for saving his life. As he was intubated, he was unable to speak. He wrote Sase a note saying that playing the violin was his way to say thanks.
Sase was able to get permission to have Wilhelmsen’s wife deliver the violin. On October 13, he performed an impromptu concert from his ICU bed. Sase helped him so he could perform and played the music through her clinical communication device so all the caregivers could hear the music.
Cell phone footage of him playing the Tennessee Waltz was captured and the footage made it to social and media channels around the world. Hundreds of thousands of views of the video and over a two thousand news articles with people using the special moment to thank caregivers everywhere for their tireless efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following his stay in the ICU, Wilhelmsen was moved to a long-term care facility before returning to McKay-Dee Hospital to complete his rehabilitation. He was finally discharged on December 2, after 55 days of being away from home.
When the McKay-Dee Hospital ICU staff, including Sase, learned Wilhelmsen was being discharged, they greeted him at the hospital exit, as well as cheering him from the second and third floor balconies, with applause and tears.
Sase and Wilhelmsen were able to share a final moment in the hospital as Sase heard his voice for the first time. She assisted him into his car with his wife, and with a blow of a kiss from Wilhelmsen to the caregivers, he was finally on his way home.
Sase said of the seeing Wilhelmsen’s surprise at the farewell, “These are the moments that remind us we came into healthcare in the first place. It’s just really special.”
Follow this link for the YouTube video of the reunion: https://youtu.be/njsjAS_Ex4M
Download link for media package including the violin video, b-roll, and interview with Ciara Sase, RN: https://securedrop.intermountain.net/securedrop/public.php?service=files&t=6695e51810be2c8ebfeebffade39c85b