On the front lines of the COVID-19 battle 

Contributed photoFrom left, Danielle Lewis, Jacqueline Pawlak, Darlene Nichols and Andrea Hurtgam of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Mount St. Mary's Hospital.

Danielle Lewis is a 14-year veteran in the field of nursing and has spent nine of those years in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Mount St. Mary's Hospital, This is a challenging position to be in at all times as ICU staff provide care for patients with life-threatening conditions, such as those caused by invasive surgeries, accidents and organ failure.

But during this age of COVID-19, the work and experience makes even those duties pale in comparison.

Hospital officials have praised Lewis and the rest of the ICU staff at Mount St. Mary's Hospital for their work, not only at St. Mary's but also in the COVID Hospital at St. Joseph's campus.

"Emotionally, physically, mentally," Lewis said of how the weight of COVID-19 has affected her and other nurses. "It's different. It's so real – and what I don't think a lot of people realize – is that once you've actually been in it and seen it, then you'll believe in it."

Lewis said the nurses have formed a circle of support for those who have seen what this virus has done and understand the feelings brought on by "being in it."

"In the ICU of St. Mary's we work as a team," she said. "We are team members, so we don't let each other fall or drown. We'll stand and help each other out. (Even) if it's not our own assignment. We don't let each other sink. We just get things done and stick together. That's the main thing."

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease which attacks the lungs, sometimes to the point where normal breathing function is impossible. For those who need it, a ventilator is provided to breathe for the patient on the ICU floor.

"A lot of our ICU patients are on multiple different medications to keep their blood pressure's up or to stop them from having cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)," Lewis said. "There are a lot of different mediations and procedures and ventilators that are in the intensive care units that are not on regular hospital floors. With the COVID, it's a long haul. Some of them are on ventilators for over 20-30 days."

“We are blessed to have so many dedicated people working at Mount St. Mary’s. Whether a nurse, doctor, x-ray tech, or member of our facilities crew, every single person is part of a team of healthcare heroes that make patient care and safety our number one priority," said C.J. Urlaub, president of Mount St. Mary’s Hospital: 

Kadie Curry, site director of Nursing for Patient Care Services at Catholic Health-Mount St. Mary’s Hospital also commended Lewis and the team.

"I admire the entire team for truly embodying what it means to be “health care heroes” through this uncertain time," she said. "Their courage, selflessness and hard work has been reflected in the care they provide to not only our patients here, but also at our COVID Hospital at St. Joseph’s Campus.”

"I knew I wanted to be a nurse, but I didn't know I wanted to do ICU right away until I went into cardiac nursing," Lewis said. "Then I loved the adrenaline and i loved learning new stuff, so I went into the ICU and I'll never do anything else.I found my niche." 

However, even finding her niche and being labeled a hero, Lewis said it's not easy.

"There is days where I drive home and I will shed a tear and I will cry, because, honestly, I don't know if these people are going to make it home back to their families, some of them," she said. "When they came into the hospital, they didn't realize that."

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