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Gem of the Week: Heartbeat in a Bottle

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GRAND FORKS, ND (WDAZ)--A tangible way to remember your loved ones.

A group of local nurses have come up with an unique way to capture those finals moments before a close family member passes away.

That makes them tonight's "Gems" of the week.

“I miss him,” said Pam Delage.  

Two years have passed - but her eyes water every time Pam Delage holds her late husband's memory box.

“He was my best friend, we were life long partners,” said Delage.

She was just 16 when she married her husband Ronnie -  a navy sailor just back from Vietnam.

“His personality, he was fun loving, just a lovable guy,” said Delage.

They were married for nearly 47 years - when Ronnie passed away from lung cancer. He was just 69. Pam stopped his watch to remember Ronnie's final breath. It was 2:27 in the morning - May 4th - 2016.

“It was a hard day, wipes tears,” said Delage.

Several weeks later, Pam received a package in the mail from some nurses here at Altru. It would contain a special keepsake.

“Pretty much broke down.”

It was a little bottle-- containing Ronnie's final rhythm strip.

“My great-granddaughter calls it a ‘piece of Papa’s heart.’”

“I tell them even if their loved one is gone they strill have their heart with them,” said Altru Nurse Angie Zafke.

Angie Zafke is a nurse in the ICU. She came up with the idea for the "Heartbeat in a Bottle". They are given to families who lose a loved one in the ICU.

“They get a little piece of that loved one, a little piece to treasure and hold,” said Zafke.

The ICU nurses use their own money to make these mementos - and get together on their own time to prepare them for families.

“As we are preparing them for a family I think it gives us some pause and reflection on that patient, that person and what the family is experiencing, so it helps us deal with the grief as well,” said Zafke.

“He’s with me,” said Delage.

Thanks to the creativity of the nurses - Pam will always hold her late husband's final heartbeat - it's tattooed on her wrist.  

“When I put my hand over my heart his hearts is there too,” said Delage.

A tiny bottle - stuffed with a heartful of love that will last a lifetime.

"He was my everything and I still have that piece, one tiny piece.”