BAY SHORE, Long Island (WABC) -- Nurses at a hospital on Long Island are using a new program to mend broken hearts, when they can't heal illness.
"This is the vial of my mother's last heartbeat," Melissa Depaola said, showing Eyewitness News reporter Stacey Sager a vial.
It's a final EKG, a tiny printout in a vial. It's one of several items given to Depaola at South Shore University Hospital after her mother died from cardiovascular disease nearly two years ago.
"And then six weeks later, my father died of a broken heart," Depaola said. "So, it was the same thing all over again."
Andrea Freudenberg from South Shore University Hospital ICU said, "Sometimes when a patient passes, just saying, 'I'm sorry', isn't enough."
It's the reason nurses started a program called 'Connected Hearts,' in which members of the community began to donate crocheted hearts to them at the hospital so families and patients would have one physical item to bond them forever.
"The one with the clip is my mother's and this is the one they gave me, and my children had the other three," Depaola said.
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It is American Heart Month, and this program, which actually started during the pandemic, is more relevant than ever, and it's expanding.
It's expanding now to other parts of the hospital, and to the vials with the EKGs, but also fingerprints are now being put onto keychains.
"And on the back, it says, 'Our fingerprints don't fade from the lives we touch,'" Depaola said.
She then tattooed both her parents' fingerprints onto her arm, along with part of her mother's EKG.
The possibilities depend much on the nurses' dedication.
Difficult as it may be, ICU nurse Jenna Rosado thought ahead in the case of one female patient who had two children.
"I had her write, 'I love you', and didn't tell them, and I made a couple of copies of it, I rolled it up in the little vial, and I also put it with her EKG strip," Rosado said.
They're trained to help patients heal, but the pandemic taught them, when you can't heal illness, you can still find new ways to mend broken hearts.
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