Digital Exclusive: UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s marks anniversary of 1st COVID-19 hospitalization

Digital Exclusive

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – The pandemic has been in the United States for more than a year, but one local hospital is acknowledging a somber commemoration.

“We had PPE on for 12 hours, of course, we take breaks, but we were in our own little area, all by ourselves with our patients, no family members. Made calls the whole time, and we come out every three hours and take a break and be exhausted,” said Toni Van Dusen, a charge nurse.

One year ago, UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s in Sioux City had their first COVID-19 hospitalization. This week, they’re taking the time to reflect on this anniversary.

“Coming together as one big hospital, with the patients included and family, we became one big team. We laughed together, we cried together, and learned a lot from each other from this experience,” said Van Dusen.

Toni Van Dusen, a charge nurse for UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s, says the last year has been crazy and the role as a nurse has evolved into more of a communicator and family member for the patients.

“There’s a lot of people that are dealing with grief right now, especially with the pandemic, suffered lost. To help them process that grief, it’s good for them to reflect so that the healing process can begin,” said Elias Samano, Chaplain.

The hospital has set up luminaries near the north entrance and a display of flowers in their Chapel to represent patients who recovered and those who passed away to COVID to reflect on the last year.

“A lot of times because they’re so involved in what they do to in serving others, a lot of times they don’t receive the recognition that they deserve. I think this is a good way of recognizing their work,” said Samano.

Elias Samano, Chaplain/Manager for the hospital, said it’s crucial for people to face the grief that they’re feeling and come to grips with the reality of the situation to move forward in life.

“Because even though people who have passed [away], we’ll always remember those. But those who have made it out and showed us that we can do it and rolled it out of here in a wheelchair with the song playing overhead, those are the best emotions,” said Toni Van Dusen, a charge nurse.

Another way that UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s is reflecting on the past year is through yard signs along Pierce Street that say, “Tough times don’t last, caring people do.”

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