Intubated COVID-19 patient plays violin for medical staff to say a musical ‘thank you’

19 November 2020, 10:43 | Updated: 18 September 2023, 09:57

COVID-19 patient serenades hospital staff in Utah with violin
COVID-19 patient serenades hospital staff in Utah with violin. Picture: Intermountain Healthcare

By Sian Moore

The 70-year-old musician played church hymns and the ‘Tennessee Waltz’ as hospital staff watched on teary-eyed.

A retired orchestra teacher, who was in hospital with coronavirus, showed his appreciation for his caregivers the only way he knew how – by serenading them on his violin.

Grover Wilhelmsen was intubated and unable to speak, so requested in writing to perform on the ICU ward in Utah to thank the workers. “It’s the very least I could do,” he wrote.

Grover’s wife of 47 years, Diana, brought her husband’s violin and viola into the hospital.

To ensure a safe environment for the concert, medical staff closed the doors to Grover’s room and enjoyed the music from behind the glass.

“About a dozen caregivers gathered to watch and listen in the ICU,” said Grover’s nurse, Ciara Sase. “It brought tears to my eyes. For all the staff to see a patient doing this while intubated was unbelievable.”

Read more: 81-year-old Italian man serenades sick wife outside her hospital window >

ICU COVID-19 Patient Plays Violin

“Even though he was so sick, he was still able to push through,” Sase continued.

Read more: Hospital staff surprise ballet-loving cancer patient with ‘Swan Lake’ >

“You could see how much it meant to him. Playing kind of helped to soothe his nerves and brought him back to the moment.”

The 70-year-old musician played multiple times over a couple of days, before his symptoms worsened and he had to be sedated.

Sase had learned from her colleagues that the violinist had been teaching and playing music “all of his life”.

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Read more: Doctor picks up violin to give emotional serenade after patient’s COVID-19 recovery >

“It was honestly shocking to be there when he picked up the violin,” nurse Matt Harper added. “It felt like I was in a dream.”

He continued: “I’m used to patients being miserable or sedated while being intubated, but Grover made an unfortunate situation into something positive.

“This was by far one of my favourite memories in the ICU that I’ve had. It was a small light in the darkness of COVID.”

Grover was recently discharged from the ward after staying for over a month, and is currently residing at an acute care facility where he is expected to recover.

“He truly is special and made a mark on all of us,” Sase said.

“When I started to cry in the room after he was done playing, he wrote to me, ‘Quit crying. Just smile,’ and he smiled at me.”