Michigan COVID-19 victim: Goodbye through an iPad

National

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — A 71-year-old Kentwood man identified as Kent County’s only COVID-19 fatality had not been traveling, except to and from the grocery store, his family told News 8.

Lee Burns died on March 21 at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital due to “complications of COVID-19,” his death certificate shows.

His family had to say goodbye through an iPad.

“The most that he did was go down to the grocery store,” his daughter Angie Lynn Denny said on Tuesday.

“That right there is a wake-up call,” she said. “If somebody who only makes trips to the grocery store can come down with it, anybody can.”

As of Monday, Michigan had confirmed more than 7,600 cases of coronavirus and seen 259 deaths, the majority of them in metro Detroit.

Burns was a retired toolmaker for the aerospace industry, a father of one, with one granddaughter and one great-granddaughter, living in a Kentwood senior apartment complex with his wife of 53 years, Lynn. He stood 6-foot-2 and, his daughter said, looked a bit like a mountain man.

“Very laid back. Super nice. Heart of gold,” she said.

She thought nothing of the virus when he was taken to Blodgett on March 9 with pneumonia-like symptoms.

“It’s something happening over in the other countries,” she said, then, “Oh, wow, we have our first case here, yeah, but it’s not going to do anything. I really wasn’t paying that much attention.

“Even when they said they needed to test him for the coronavirus, and this is after the hospital went into lockdown, we’re like, they’re just doing this as a precaution,” she said. “There’s no other reason. We never thought this could happen to him.”

Her dad had a weakened system. He finished chemotherapy and radiation last May for a cancerous tumor in his esophagus. He suffered liver damaged and congestive heart failure as a result of that treatment.

At 2 p.m. March 21, as arranged, the hospital brought a tablet into Burns’ room. The virus that was killing him was keeping his family from visiting. His wife, daughter and granddaughter saw him on his ventilator through the family’s iPad.

“We were able to see him and to say goodbye,” his daughter said.

The nurse told them he could hear them.

“There’s no way to describe how much that meant to me,” she said.

Immediately after the call, with the family’s approval, the hospital removed him from life support. He died minutes later.

The daughter, mother and granddaughter had been under quarantine but have not shown any symptoms themselves and have not been tested, the daughter said.

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