LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Oftentimes lost in the numbers is the reality that the coronavirus is killing people across Kentucky and Indiana.
Many times those in their final moments are alone, except for the nurses that have been caring for them, because family members can't be there for their final moments.
The family of Keiko Neutz, 87, was no exception.
Made up of 8 kids and 28 grandchildren, the family uses words to describe her such as fierce but caring, a woman of God, and the glue that held them together.
That's why they all wanted to be by her side when Neutz learned she had the coronavirus.
“It was our matriarch, the rock of our family,” Lacy Taylor, Neutz’s granddaughter, told WAVE 3 News.
Her daughter, Debbie Taylor, said her mother had been taken to the ER three times and eventually tested for the coronavirus on March 23.
“We went from worrying about washing our hands and keeping our groceries clean and not having toilet paper to our mother having COVID-19,” Debbie Taylor said.
She said the staff at Norton Brownsboro became like family to her, even though measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 meant visitors weren’t allowed in the hospital.
“They really went all out treating our mom, even at her age, to try to save her,” Debbie Taylor said.
Family members said they are typically connected and close, so being physically distant and not allowed in the hospital was tough.
“Your mom seems very depressed, and you all need to try to FaceTime her at least four times a day,” Debbie Taylor said a doctor told her.
Lacy Taylor said medical staff noticed that the video chats were helping her grandmother survive.
“Because during those FaceTimes we had been doing, it seemed like her oxygen was going up,” Lacy Taylor said. “You know, he noticed she was kind of improving.”
So, the 40-plus family members started to FaceTime her as often as they could, without overwhelming her.
Eventually, though, the app presented challenges for the family, so they switched to the House Party app. Lacy Taylor said it allowed several people at a time to talk, play music or pray with Neutz in her final days.
Debbie Taylor said she believes her mom felt loved as the family innovated to provide her comfort until her final breath.
Her family got to be by her side digitally as doctors helped them make the tough decision to take Neutz off oxygen, the one thing that was keeping her alive.
“Being able to see that in a real time view, and to see how it wasn’t helping, it wasn’t going to improve anything and it was time, really helped the situation,” Lacy Taylor said.
The Taylors have now launched the Keiko Neutz Amazing Grace Foundation in her honor.
"We have to come together and take this evil virus and turn it around and create some good out of it," Lacy said.
The foundation will provide laptops to families like theirs who want to be close to sick relatives in a time when social distance is forcing many to die alone.
Lacy Taylor said the the non-profit has already received a dozen donations of laptops and tablets.
Instructions about how to donate can be requested by email at email@example.com.
The mission statement listed on the groups Facebook page states their foundation is dedicated Neutz:
“We are a non-profit who is on a mission to help loved ones be with each other virtually while hospitals aren’t allowing visitors. We are also here to aid the needs of children and to honor Keiko Neutz whom went to Heaven on March 30, 2020.”
Lacy Taylor said hospitals, including Norton, are in the early stages of considering how to adopt the program. She adds her sister, who lives in Panama City Beach, has also been in contact with Florida hospitals.
Those in the family said they also want to emphasize how critical Norton’s hospital staff was to them. Not only did they set up the video chats, nurses that grew close to Neutz and her family requested to be by Neutz’s side to provide her comfort as she died.
Debbie Taylor said a group of staff members was also praying outside her room at that time. She said that is something that brought peace to the family.
Lacy Taylor said Neutz taught children’s bible study at Southeast Christian Church for over 30 years.
She said she hopes to use the foundation to revamp a playground at the church and plant a tree there dedicated to her grandmother.
If you’d like to help, visit the foundation’s website here.