Oklahoma City ICU nurse Lizanne Jennings comforted her husband, Dennis, in the moments before he succumbed to Covid-19.
“Are you ready to be at peace?” she recalled asking him on November 23.
‘He said, ‘Uh-huh.’ And I said, ‘OK. Mom’s fine. She’s back at the house. She’s going to stay with me.’ Because I knew he would keep fighting if I told him my mom had already died. And so they started giving him morphine and Ativan. I turned him over and I rubbed his back. I said, ‘I love you.’ He said, ‘I love you.’ And I said, “You’re going to go now, OK? You can finally be at peace.’”
Dennis took his last breath 30 minutes later, Jennings told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Tuesday. Her mother, Linda, who had also been infected with Covid-19, had died just three days earlier.
“It’s just so raw,” Jennings said in an interview, struggling to keep her composure as her son Brayden placed his hand on her shoulder.
“Sometimes I’m grieving for my husband and then I realize my mom’s gone. And I’m grieving for my mom. I just think … oh, I’m going to go tell Dennis but then Dennis is gone. So the two people that would have been so supportive … you know, they’re both gone.”
The sense of loss leaves her and her two sons feeling like they’re drowning, she said.
“As we go down, we’re trying to push the other one back up to take a breath,” she said. “It didn’t have to be this way…. Our family didn’t have to be gutted.”
Her son Brayden, an attorney, lamented that he couldn’t be there to support his mother when he also became infected.
“It’s kind of like we’re broken, but we’re continuing to break,” he said. “And at that time when I got that positive result that, that took away her support system. They were both in the hospital, and I couldn’t come hug my mom because I couldn’t get her sick.”
Jennings and her son remembered Dennis as strong and “full of life.” Before becoming ill, dad had beaten his son in a pushup contest.
But, months after warning her husband about the deadly virus, Jennings now watched him lying on his stomach in a hospital bed. Moments after he died, she bathed him and cut his hair.
“And then I left him,” she said. “There’s nothing else. I couldn’t save either one of them. If people don’t wear masks, they don’t want to wear a mask… This got brought into our home. My mom never left the house. My husband was so careful. Stop being selfish. Stop being selfish. That’s all.”
In March, during the start of the first wave of the pandemic, Jennings talked to her husband about how much worse things were going to get.
“‘Look at me. This is going to get bad. This is going to get so bad,’” she told him.
“I said, ‘One of us could die and I need you to hear that and I need you to wear your mask and I need you to hand sanitize. And so he did… Mom stayed home for eight and a half months. And so you have people that are doing everything right and we didn’t get to hug my mom and we didn’t go anywhere… And we still lost them. It doesn’t matter how strong you are. People are like, ‘Oh man, Dennis is so strong. He’s going to make it.’ It happens no matter what. The virus keeps winning.”