August 17, 2020
Beth Game Finalist
Landscape Ontario is sharing stories of frontline heroes who have gone above and beyond to support their community during the Covid-19 pandemic. Garden Makeover Finalists have a chance to win the grand prize $25,000 garden makeover or one of nine valued at $5,000 — one in each of Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association's regional chapters.

Beth Game’s heart broke seeing patients pass away from Covid-19 without family by their side.

An Intensive Care Unit Registered Nurse (ICU RN) at Lakeridge Health Oshawa with over three decades’ experience, Game has seen just about everything, including the 2003 SARS and 2014 Ebola outbreaks. But the Covid-19 pandemic was very different.

“It was devastating to see people dying and they weren’t allowed to have their families with them,” Game recalled, fighting back the emotion in her voice. “So here we are, as nurses, sitting with total strangers, holding their hands as they died.”

It was heart wrenching for Game and her colleagues. So they came up with an idea to show their support to both patients and their families.

“We came up with this idea to make matching little metal hearts that say ‘you’re never alone,’ that we could give to the patients and the next of kin, along with a card that says ‘our condolences, and we want you to know that your loved one did not die alone. We were with them and we held their hand as they passed away.’”

The whole ICU team loved the idea, and one of Game’s co-worker’s named Connie came up with the “knitting families together” title.

However, it took a lot of leg work to get off the ground. First, Game needed to get permission from the hospital to connect with the families. Next, Game reached out to numerous funeral homes in the area to let them know the plan and to get them on board to deliver the heart and card to the families. 

Then, the group shifted from metal to knitted hearts. That’s when things really took off.

“A few of the nurses started knitting or crocheting hearts, and it really took off like wildfire,” Game said. “I put the word out to my golf leagues and news spread to some local church groups, and hearts started coming in like crazy. In the first two months, we probably had over 1,000 hearts knitted for us.”
knit hearts

The idea takes off on social media

The idea struck a chord across the Durham region, becoming a popular topic on the Lakeridge Strong public Facebook group.

“It has been very moving to see the overwhelming response from the community,” Game said. “And the stories from families who weren’t able to visit their loved one are so sad, but to know we’ve made a small impact with these hearts, makes me feel good.”

Game recalls seeing a post on the Lakeridge Strong Facebook group by a woman who received a heart when her father became ill. In another post, a woman shared how the heart made her feel closer to her mother, who she was unable to visit on Mother’s Day due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Eventually, restrictions were eased to allow next of kin to be alongside terminal patients. 

“There was a man who was dying and his wife was at his bedside,” Game remembered. “A nurse placed one heart in his hand and gave the other to her. She cried uncontrollably. After we left the room, she kept taking pictures of the heart in his hand. Once he passed away, she came to us and said ‘I will cherish this heart forever!’

Game said caring for patients is what has made her career so fulfilling. And in recent years, she has found even more joy by mentoring young nurses in her role as an instructor at Durham College.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with younger nurses and showing them the ropes,” Game said. “I’ve taken an active role in the mentoring program for much of my career, and now teaching at the college gives me a way to give back and help prepare the next generation.”
tiny heart token

Always busy, at work and at home

Outside of work, Game said she’s the type of person who “likes to keep busy.” She hasn’t had a lot of time for her own gardens in recent years, but loves to be outside. She enjoys helping to weed and clean up gardens for friends and family.

“I’m not the type to sit back and have a couple drinks in the backyard,” Game said. “If I’m visiting a friend, I’d rather be in the garden, weeding and working away.”

Game is one of the finalists nominated for a garden makeover by Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association — a group of over 2,000 member companies who are passionate about plants, gardening and landscaping. The goal of the contest is to give back to frontline workers who have made a difference in their communities throughout the coronavirus pandemic 

When asked what a garden makeover would mean for her family, Game said it would be very special. “Just to be thought of and nominated is really very touching. There have been so many frontline workers across the province who stepped up and have done their best to serve their communities. I am proud of my work, my team and our hospital.”