It is also where she died of COVID-19 on April 29. While family couldn’t be with her for the final moments, her friends and co-workers from the hospital were.
Those hospital friends and many more paid tribute to Joan’s spirit and dedication Sunday morning as about 60 members from Paws from the Heart Pet Therapy, along with their dogs, gathered outside Kent and then walked around to the side of the hospital to wave and say thank you to the ICU health care workers who watched from the windows above.
Susan Parker, Paws president and organizer of the event, called Joan an “amazing woman who everybody loved.” She said the purpose of the walk by was to demonstrate the love for Joan and for those on the front lines of combating the virus.
Dr. Thomas Raimondo – who was joined by Joan’s daughter Glenna Swann, her two stepdaughters, Kelley Hewes and Pam Marchetti, and Kent ICU central director of staff Virginia Wilcox – has treated multiple cases of COVID-19. Wilcox has worked at Kent for nearly as long as Joan.
“Forty-eight years,” she said with a laugh.
“It’s a horrible, horrible disease,” Raimondo said. He cautioned those who may pass it off as nothing worse than the flu to think twice. He said in his years in the profession – he is a pulmonologist – the closest comparable disease in terms of tracking is HIV. He noted that HIV is transmitted by blood and bodily fluids, but COVID-19 is transmitted by droplets from a sneeze or cough that can live on a surface to be picked up and introduced to the body through the nose, mouth or eyes, making it far more difficult to control.
“Right now we’re able to handle what we have,” he said. He cautioned if we don’t continue to abide by social distancing, wearing masks and cleaning our hands, “it could get out of control.”
Raimondo said he has never seen health care workers work so well.
“These people really rallied. They don’t say no. They just do their job,” he said.
He said Joan was one of them, recalling how she could “break the tension” in the ICU with daily delivery of coffee.
“Joan had the most loving and giving personality. She was both witty and charming, and genuinely brightened the day of anyone she came across. Not only would she leave you with a huge smile, but she would also leave you in hysterics!” reads her obituary.
“She could make anybody smile. She just had this enlightening personality,” said Parker, who worked for 27 years in the Kent ICU as a unit secretary.
Raimondo called Joan a “martyr” for holding down her post when surrounded by COVID patients and knowing she was vulnerable. He put her among those with “boots on the ground.”
Raimondo believes the “key” is a good vaccine, and until that is available he reasons we can’t relax. He likewise feels for this to happen, the “CDC should not be limited by political restraints.”
For Joan’s extended family, the last two weeks has been a nightmare. In addition to losing Joan, her stepdaughter Kelley Hewes lost her father, Arthur Hewes, to COVID-19.
After waving to staff and patients in the ICU, Parker rallied Paws from the Heart Pet Therapy members and their dogs for similar displays of appreciation at Hasbro, Rhode Island, Women & Infants and Miriam hospitals.
They were greeted with smiles and the mood was upbeat, but it was nothing to compare to the outpouring at Kent said Parker. It’s understandable. Kent is where her spirit lives on.