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Arizona woman turns grief of father's COVID-19 death into nonprofit

Posted at 1:20 PM, Sep 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 13:33:18-04

PHOENIX — After losing her dad to COVID-19, a Valley nurse practitioner turned her frustration and grief into a nonprofit organization to help others facing tough medical decisions.

Samantha Casselman is a nurse practitioner who works with Phoenix Children's hospital.

On September 19, 2020, Casselman lost her father, Timothy Reardon, after a long battle with COVID-19. Reardon was 65-years-old and passed away after 65 days in the hospital.

"He was just a big dork," laughed Casselman about her dad, who was a 27-year veteran of the Glendale Police Department. "He’d call me "Sneak," because that was my nickname."

During Reardon's hospital stay, Casselman became frustrated with the difficulty of communication with her dad's health care providers since most of her communication with doctors was over the phone.

"We found that they didn’t learn who he was," said Casselman. "Over time, it just became very frustrating as a family to not have that trust that you would normally develop when you’re at the bedside getting to know somebody day in and day out."

Casselman founded a nonprofit called SpeakingLife to help others like her better cope with and understand difficult medical decisions needed when a parent is facing end-of-life care.

"Anybody who is going through a challenge with a loved one and they’re working as either a medical power of attorney or maybe they’re just a friend that’s trying to help somebody, my hope is to come alongside them, partner with them and coach them," said Casselman.

SpeakingLife is based at Pure Heart Church in Glendale where, on Monday nights, Casselman hosts a "Wellness Night" with support groups that help people manage grief and learn about things such as the power of attorney and advanced directive, important processes when a family member becomes medically responsible for another.

"[My dad would] probably say, 'Sneak, I’m so proud of you. Thank you so much for helping other people.'”

Adam Waltz at KNXV first reported this story.