Lexington nurse Ellie Schroader is recognized as a medical hero during pandemic
David Green had come to dread incoming phone calls from the hospital.
In April, the coronavirus put Green’s 96-year-old father, Bob, in one near Toledo, Ohio.
An acute cruelty of the highly contagious virus is that loved ones of the afflicted can have no in-person contact with them. “Once my father was diagnosed with COVID-19, I feared that I would never see him alive again,” David Green says.
Instead, on what turned out to be Bob Green’s final night, an act of alert kindness by a “travel nurse” from Lexington led to a series of FaceTime calls between a dying man and his children that the Green family will forever cherish.
A former volleyball middle hitter at Tates Creek High School and an Eastern Kentucky University graduate, Ellie Schroader accepted a short-term nursing contract at ProMedica Bay Park Hospital in Oregon, Ohio, earlier this spring to help treat coronavirus patients.
Having contracted COVID-19 in an assisted living facility where he resided with his wife Jackie, 95, Bob Green became a patient in Schroader’s care.
In the early evening of April 17, Schroader noticed something important: Bob Green was awake and alert.
She recognized it as a prime chance to have Bob Green speak with his family.
This time, when David Green got a phone call from the hospital, it was not news about his father’s declining condition.
“It was a nurse who asked if we would like to have a FaceTime chat with my father?” David Green says.
From his hometown in Morenci, Mich., David Green, 69, was soon looking at his father’s face and talking with him.
“The pulmonary doctor (had been) quite frank about my father’s prospects and I knew that a recovery was not at all likely,” David Green says. “That’s what made the FaceTime chat really special.”
As the video call was winding down, David Green’s wife, Colleen, asked Schroader if she would have time to do similar calls with David’s brothers.
“We knew Ellie was busy with other patients, but she was willing to do it again, so I frantically called my brother Thom in the next time zone over,” David Green says. “Fortunately, he was home to take the call.”
In Mahtomedi, Minn., Thom Green, 61, told his Dad “I was thinking about him all the time and that I loved him, and that I wanted him to know that,” he says.
The third call went to Dan Green, 66, in Seattle. “By that time, Dad was getting real sleepy,” Thom Green says. “I’m not sure (Dan) really had a chance to converse with him, but he did get to see Dad.”
On the following day, Bob Green was moved to hospice care. He died later that day.
In the aftermath, as the Green brothers worked through the emotions from the loss of a parent, one feeling kept coming to the forefront: Thankfulness for the nurse who had given them a final chance to see and speak to their father.
Schroader, 26, had agonized over whether to accept an assignment working during the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2019, her family in Lexington had been touched by tragedy. Schroader’s older sister, Elizabeth, died at 32 after being diagnosed with brain and spinal cord cancer. She left behind a son, Gabe, who was not yet 2 years old when his mom passed.
Schroader’s mother, Debi Binford, and her stepfather, Thom Binford, are raising Gabe.
“My parents are in their mid-60s and mid-70s, so it’s not a small task to be raising a toddler,” Schroader says. “So me being home to help them is more than just me taking a break from work.
“When my recruiter told me about the opportunity to go to Toledo, I was stuck between, ‘Do I stay home and help my parents with my family? Or do I use my skills and the license I have as a nurse?’”
Her duty in an emerging pandemic, Schroader ultimately decided, was to apply her nursing expertise.
That took her to Toledo.
Now back in Lexington, Schroader not long ago got tangible evidence of just how grateful the Green family is toward her.
Thom Green’s daughter, Erin, nominated Schroader in a “Reserved for Heroes” contest designed to reward those in the medical profession who have demonstrated exceptional merit.
When Schroader got word she had been chosen as a winner, she also found out what the prize is: Four nights for her and three guests at the Ted Turner-owned Vermejo luxury resort in New Mexico.
She has through the end of 2021 to redeem the reward.
“I am absolutely floored (over) how all of this unfolded. I don’t even have words,” Schroader says. “I don’t feel like I deserve it — I was just doing my job — but I am so thankful.”
David and Thom Green say there is no way to quantify the worth of what Schroader gave their family.
“We didn’t have any kind of agreement with Ellie to have her call us,” Thom Green says. “She just felt it was a good time to do so. I’ve been telling people, ‘This was an angel posing as an ICU nurse.’”
Says David Green: “It was wonderful to get that one last visit, to see Dad’s face and have a conversation with him. Ellie’s call turned out to be such a gift.”