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A year after her husband's death, widow visits hospital to thank doctors and nurses

You'd think walking into the place your husband died would be hard, but for Laura Madsen, it was necessary.

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. — COVID has been hard. 

Hard on the families who have lost loved ones.

Hard on those who cared for them in the hospital. 

When those two worlds collide, it's usually in a time of deep pain and loss, and rarely do those paths cross again. But this week, they did.

“We met when we were both 32, so I always like to say I kissed a lot of frogs before I met you Jim,” says Laura Madsen.

You can probably already tell what kind of person Laura Madsen is. But on this day, she wants to make sure it’s not about her.

“I had 28½ years with him. That's not bad,” she says.

One year ago, Laura's husband Jim, lost his battle with COVID. And while for many coming back to the place where he died would be hard, for Laura, it was necessary.

“Not for one minute do I want you to think that your efforts and sacrifices weren't appreciated,” she says to a group sitting in the Chapel at Methodist Hospital.

Laura, her son Seth and their family gathered at the hospital to honor those who, for 17 days, fought for Jim. Cared for him. And cared for her.

She wrote down her words, so as not to forget anyone. Like Ben, his ICU nurse, and Annmarie, the hospital chaplain who prayed with her the day Jim died. 

They brought food and flowers, and walked up to the ICU — a place Laura was only able to visit twice the entire time Jim was in the hospital. So these people were not only caring for him, they were HER lifeline to him.

“Did he know how sick he was? I've always wondered that,” she asks his doctor. “He did. He did. But he was worried about you and your son,” he answers.

While a chance to ask questions, this was more about delivering what's been on her heart for the past 365 days.

“I know you did everything you could, and it was his time," Laura says trying to give comfort to the doctor.

“I think this is part of the good work that she’s doing that helps her grieve and also gives us some measure of closure and connection with her,” says Annmarie Finsaas, the Chaplain who prayed with Laura.

Laura still carries Jim's heartbeat in a bottle. An EKG printout, a gift from his ICU nurse, from just hours before Jim died.

“It really means the world and it really validates why we get into nursing. It's to help people, to help our patients, it's to care for our families and just very grateful that Laura gave us that gift today,” says Melissa Fritz a nurse and Vice President of Patient care Services at Methodist.

But this gift is one that goes both ways. 

Helping to heal even the hearts that didn't know they needed it.

“It'll never be forgotten. It will never be forgotten,” says Laura.

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