"I really consider them really lucky to be able to hold my old man’s hand when I really wish I could’ve held his hand and kissed him," the victim's son said of the nurses who cared for his father.

By Rachel DeSantis
May 20, 2020
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A New Hampshire family built a special bond with the nurses treating their father amid his coronavirus battle — and now, the healthcare workers’ heartbreaking message to the grieving family is going viral.

When Rene Johnson was admitted to Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, his five children and their families quickly set up camp in the parking lot to show their support, ABC affiliate WMUR reported.

They couldn’t visit him inside due to restrictions, but for the past two weeks, they remained committed to waiting outside, and soon struck up a bond with the nurses treating Johnson.

The nurses would come to window and wave hello while posting updates on Johnson’s condition through signs they’d tape to the window that said things like, “We will tell him you love him. We will hold his hand.”

In response, the Johnson family made signs of their own that thanked the nurses and reminded Rene how much they loved him.

“They’re kind of famous with our staff. Everyone would come in and say, ‘Is the family there?’ And everyone would go to the window and wave,” nurse Lynn Harkins told WMUR.

Johnson’s health took a turn for the worse, however, and he died on Sunday, the outlet reported.

As they have been for the past few weeks, the nurses were ready with a pair of signs.

“He is at peace,” the signs read. “We are so sorry.”

For Johnson’s son Kevin, the gesture meant more than he could express.

“Words can’t tell you enough what these people did for my father. I really consider them really lucky to be able to hold my old man’s hand when I really wish I could’ve held his hand and kissed him,” he told ABC News. “They’re the heroes in this. I just can’t believe what they did for us, and I’ll just never forget it. Just thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

As a way of showing their gratitude, the Johnson family has continued to congregate outside the hospital even after their father’s passing as a means of showing support for the nurses, who respond through the window by making little hearts with their hands.

“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,” Johnson’s daughter Angela Daneault said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there have been at least 3,721 cases and 182 deaths attributed to coronavirus in New Hampshire, according to The New York Times. The U.S. has seen at least 1.5 million cases and 91,937 deaths.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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