The gravelly tones of Johnny Cash might seem at odds with the clinical surrounds of Wollongong Hospital's COVID intensive care unit, but it was one way staff aimed to make the unit less forbidding for their first patient.
Playing the favourite iTunes playlist of former Wollongong detective Henry Karpik while he lay intubated in the ICU may seem a small gesture, says wife Sue, but it revealed the big hearts of those tasked with his care.
"Intensive care units are such clinical spaces, and in these times of COVID-19, must be very scary for patients with staff wearing masks and full personal protective equipment," she said.
"I was a bit panicky thinking of Henry, not being able to see because he's vision impaired; not being able to talk, because of the tube down his neck. I was really concerned that it must be a truly awful experience for him.
"I told staff that when Henry wanted to relax, he'd put his country music on - his Johnny Cash and Statler Brothers. So they turned on his iTunes on his phone and instead of being in a silent room, he was able to listen to his music."
Staff in the tightly restricted unit also facilitated Facetime chats between Mrs Karpik and her husband who, though at varying levels of sedation, was sometimes able to give her a 'thumbs up'.
She's grateful for this, and the many other acts of kindness from the staff, who were there by her husband's side when she could not be.
The couple - married for 50 years this year - were on the ill-fated voyage on the Ruby Princess which sailed into Sydney Harbour on March 19.
Two days later Mrs Karpik called paramedics to their Figtree home as Mr Karpik's condition worsened; as his temperature soared, and his breathing became increasingly laboured.
She'd alerted the paramedics that he was awaiting the results of a COVID test, and they came prepared.
He was rushed to Wollongong Hospital and the following day was admitted to the dedicated COVID ICU, and intubated. He would remain on a ventilator for more than five weeks.
Mrs Karpik doesn't know how to put into words how thankful she is for the mighty effort ICU staff put in to keep Mr Karpik - a father to four, grandfather and a decorated police officer - alive.
"It was a very new situation. Henry was the first patient in the COVID ICU at Wollongong Hospital. It must have been a real challenge," she said.
"But the expertise of the staff is absolutely exceptional as was the energy and commitment they put into giving him every possible chance of living.
"What's more they did it in the most compassionate way, even at the worst of times."
For there was a time - a week after he was admitted - that efforts to keep him alive did not seem to be working. His family were told - by video conference - that he would likely not make it.
Mrs Karpik had the terrible task of calling her husband's priest to administer the last rites.
"Staff explained that it was becoming more and more difficult to ventilate him as his lungs were very badly affected and he had some renal failure," she says.
"They said they would keep him on a ventilator for a short period of time and if there was no significant change they'd have to put him into palliative care.
"That was a bleak time. I was still in self isolation myself and I had to organise the priest, and I had to think about organising a funeral when I knew there were restrictions on the number of people at funerals.
"Disarray is how I would describe it. There was a terrible sense of hopelessness - where do I go, what do I do?"
Mrs Karpik, an Anglican, sought comfort from those at the Figtree Anglican Church - and took solace in prayer. She also received support from family, friends and the Catholic Women's League.
Then came hope.
"The staff phoned and told me they were going to try some other techniques and a medication that they'd discussed with staff at other ICU units across the world," she says.
"From that time there were small steps of improvement. His kidney function came back and over the next couple of weeks his infection markers gradually decreased."
Initially attached to the ventilator via an endotracheal tube (placed through the mouth into the trachea), he underwent a tracheostomy to allow air to enter his lungs via a cut in the neck. Slowly he was weaned off the machine, and was eventually able to breathe on his own.
On Easter Sunday Mrs Karpik - who'd returned a negative test for COVID-19 - was first able to be reunited with her husband who had by then tested negative a number of times for the virus that had had him in its grip.
"They'd told me at the beginning that this was an unknown condition, that his body would either kill off the virus or the virus would kill him," she said.
"When I finally saw him he still looked very sick and was quite sedated, but it was great to hold his hand."
Mr Karpik spent 38 years in the NSW Police Force, completing his service in 2005 after reaching the rank of Superintendent.
It was around six years later that he was diagnosed with macular degeneration and despite seeking treatment the condition ultimately left him legally blind.
In recent years he's been heavily involved with Vision Australia - for which he is a volunteer speaker - and the Figtree Lions Club.
"There were seven of us who went on the cruise together - I was the only one who didn't get COVID-19," Mrs Karpik said.
"We think he took the fall for us - while others in our group were hospitalised, none had to go through what he had to go through. We don't think anyone else would have survived it.
"But Henry's a tough old boot."
Mrs Karpik knows that the road to recovery will not be smooth - Mr Karpik will need six to 12 months of intensive rehabilitation at a facility after discharge from Wollongong Hospital in the coming days.
"They say some people fully recover, while some could have some lung issues for life," she said.
Meantime she's conscious of the fact that COVID-19 continues to bring grief and pain to many.
While 106 of the 115 COVID-positive patients in the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District have now recovered, two remain in Wollongong Hospital. One patient - a 75-year-old man who was a passenger on Ovation of the Seas - died last month.
"People in our community need to be very aware of the tragic events that come from the small proportion of people severely affected by COVID-19," she said.
"I hope people are really sensible as we slowly come out of isolation. I hope they maintain safe distances and good hygiene and download the COVID app - that's our duty to society."