ER nurse Betty Grier Gallaher delayed her retirement to help treat Covid patients – only for the virus to end up killing her (Pictures: CNN/TikTok)
A veteran nurse who delayed her retirement to help treat coronavirus patients has been killed by the disease. Betty Grier Gallaher died on January 10 – the day before her 79th birthday – at Coosa Valley Medical Center in Alabama, the same facility she had worked at as an emergency room nurse for 43 years.
Betty had spent 50 years working in emergency rooms, and chose to do night shifts, because she enjoyed mentoring younger nurses. One of her colleagues Nikki Jo Hatten, a fellow ER nurse, described her as ‘the cure for an anxiety attack.’
After Covid began spreading in the US in March, Betty’s colleagues tried to persuade her to sit it out – but the elderly nurse spent just two days at home, before showing-up to work again. Hatten said: ‘She couldn’t stand it. She missed coming to work. It’s what she lived for.’
Betty worked tirelessly with Covid patients for the ensuing nine months – until she became short of breath during rounds on December 19. The nurse dismissed her symptoms as exhaustion, but she was rushed back to hospital by emergency responders the next day, and tested positive for Covid shortly afterwards.
Initially conscious, Betty insisted on treating her colleagues to pizza on New Year’s Eve for all their care. She also refused a transfer to a hospital in Birmingham, joking that no-one there would style her hair the way she liked it.
The dedicated nurse, who leaves behind her partner, two sons, six grandchildren and one great grandchild, texted son Carson Grier to tell him she would finally retire after recovering from Covid.
Tragically, Betty’s condition began to decline as her Covid infection worsened, but her PPE-clad colleagues packed her room as she slipped away to ensure she did not die alone.
Hatten told CNN: ‘The day she did pass away, just about all our ER staff went and filled that room up.’
Betty had finally decided to retire after falling ill, but tragically died of Covid before she could do so (Picture: TikTok)
‘It was not the way we wanted to see her go, but I’m glad we got to be there.’ A tribute to Betty that was shared on TikTok has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
Paying tribute to Betty, Hatten added: ‘She was the glue of our ER, or the ER matriarch. It feels like we lost our mom.’
Betty’s funeral was postponed after Grier tested positive for Covid, although he is now recovering.
He said: ‘There was only one way she knew how to live, and that was to help others.
‘I hope that I get to say that I lived my life the way I wanted to live it, like she did.’
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