Queen's hospital nurse Emily Petersen helps dying man Facetime family

Emily Peterson

Hornchurch nurse Emily Petersen (pictured pre-pandemic) ensured Micky Miller spoke to his family before he died in intensive care - Credit: Emily Petersen/ Queen's Hospital

“He must have sat there looking around him feeling absolutely terrified. I was just trying to help him with breathing and relaxing, and tried to distract him from everything else going on.”

Romford nurse Emily Petersen, who helped a dying father speak to his family on Facetime, has received a hamper gift for her dedication from A Boost for the Brave - an initiative which was set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.   

Emily, 26, was transferred from a surgical ward to support the intensive care team in April last year, where she provided bedside nursing care for Crow Metals worker Micky Miller, one of the few patients not on a ventilator.

The Hornchurch nurse said: “It was a completely new experience for me, I’d never even seen a ventilator patient before."

She said: “You almost felt guilty asking the ICU nurses how I could help because that meant taking time away from caring for other patients.”  

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Emily, who temporarily lived in a hotel to avoid putting her asthmatic mum Carol at risk from coronavirus, said she chatted to 61-year-old Micky over the sound of the machines and made sure he was comfortable.  

“He was really struggling, you could see it on his face and the machines, and the doctors thought he would need the help of a ventilator,” she added. 

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Emily read out letters sent to Micky by his family, showed him pictures and played his favourite song - You'll Never Walk Alone by Gary and the Pacemakers. 

As he deteriorated, she suggested he Facetime his family, but because daughter Megan and wife Sandra couldn’t hear Micky above the sounds of the ward, Emily translated their conversation. 

Emily explained: “It was heart-breaking, I just had to put a brave face on as much as I could. 

“I was trying to translate but my voice was breaking.  

“I just had to forget about me and my emotions, and do it for them, but it was really tough.” 

This was the last time the family spoke while Micky was still alive, as shortly afterwards he was intubated. He died days later on April 25. 

Emily was moved to another part of the ward, but Megan posted on Facebook searching for the nurse who helped her father, and when they reconnected, told Emily that Micky had passed away. 

The women remained in contact, and the nurse even surprised the family at his funeral procession by standing on the corner of Crow Lane, Romford.  

She explained: “I had the day off and I really wanted to go, because he stuck in my mind and I needed that closure, and I thought it would be good for them to see someone from the hospital. 

“I started crying and they started crying, but they didn’t know I would be there because I wasn’t sure I’d have the guts to turn up.

“I just wish I had been able to do that for everyone - there are so many names and faces who I don’t know what happened to them. 

“But it’s a privilege to know I helped Micky over those last days.” 

Megan said she was “eternally grateful” for Emily’s help: “She took the time to help us say goodbye to my dad in the best possible way we could at the time and kept us updated with any news she had about him.  

“Seeing her appear at my dad’s funeral procession was just amazing, it shows the impact my dad’s personality had on people." 

Emily added: “I volunteered to work in intensive care as I felt it was the right thing to do and the team were so supportive, I was really sad to leave. 

“I see friends my age keen to get back to the pub now restrictions are lifting, but I am a bit cautious, given what I’ve seen.  

“I’m hoping for a bit of normality to return and for us to find a new normal, I just hope everyone is sensible.” 

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