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"She was safe in my arms. For that moment, for that split second, she was safe," said Cheryl Norton

By Rachel DeSantis
April 09, 2020 05:24 PM
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mother hugs ICU nurse daughter
Credit: Liz Dufour/The Enquirer via USA TODAY Network

With her daughter on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic as an ICU nurse, Cheryl Norton feared it would be a very long time before the two could share a hug, for fear of passing along the virus.

So when she spotted a clean sheet in her laundry basket as she went to greet daughter Kelsey Kerr last week, she immediately had an a-ha moment.

The result? A heartwarming photo of the mother-daughter pair in an embrace with the large sheet draped over Kerr, 28, captured by passerby and family friend Liz Dufour of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“It felt like my heart went, ahhh. It felt so good to hold her for a second. The thing that was interesting about the photograph is you could see how tight she was holding me,” Norton, 64, told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It was like she was home again. She was safe in my arms. For that moment, for that split second, she was safe.”

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Because Norton and her husband have pre-existing medical conditions, they’ve been keeping their distance from Kerr, who lives about 15 minutes away from their home in Blue Ash, Ohio, Good Morning America reported.

Though Kerr said she is quarantining with her husband and dog in her own home, she’s been stopping by her parents’ house to get some things here and there while maintaining social distance.

When Kerr dropped by last Friday to pick up prayer squares for her critically ill patients at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Norton decided she’d had enough space.

“I just want to know she’s okay, so when I got that one opportunity to see her, I just had to throw that sheet over her,” she told GMA. “I thought, ‘I want to hug her, and if she has a sheet around her maybe I can do it.’”

She continued, “I see on social media that all these healthcare workers are feeling very isolated and I didn’t want that to happen to her.”

Kerr told the outlet that she and her family have always expressed their love through hugs, so she was thrilled to be able to share one with her mom.

Though it’s unclear how much protection — if any — a sheet can provide, “It was so nice,” Kerr said. “We’ve always been big huggers and it’s been pretty unusual to do these drop-offs and not get out of the car and be able to hug her.”

Though you can’t see it in the photo, Kerr was wearing a face mask during the hug, according to GMA. Once it was over, Norton dropped the sheet in the garage and let it sit for several days before she brought it inside to wash it.

“I did it for me. But that was kind of selfish,” Norton told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I did it for her also because I didn’t want her to feel like she was contaminated.”

Norton said her daughter’s hospital has been bracing for a surge in patients, and that she’s unsure when the next time she’ll get to hug Kerr will be.

As of Thursday afternoon, Ohio had 5,512 cases and 213 deaths attributed to coronavirus, according to The New York Times.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.