COLORADO SPRINGS — In late April of 2020, Dana Ikener walked triumphantly down the halls of UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central after being hospitalized for a month with COVID-19. The hall was lined with doctors, nurses, hospital leaders and other staff who all thunderously cheered her discharge.
Nearly two years later after that day, Dana walked that same hallway and couldn’t help but notice the difference between then and now.
When I asked her what she remembered about that day two years ago, Dana laughs: “It was a lot different. I don’t remember a lot of faces (then) I just remember there were a lot of faces.”
In early 2020, in the early stage of the pandemic, Dana had been hospitalized for weeks with COVID-19, and spent almost half of that time on a ventilator. The special send-off she received from so many of her caregivers has left a lasting impression.
Dana says, “It was something else that many people were even there to send me on my way.”
Waiting for Dana at the end of her walk down that hallway two years ago was her sister, who she hadn't been able to see in person while hospitalized. When they embraced, the emotions spilled out, and when Dana was able to speak, she told her sister, “I told you I was walking out of here.”
Dana says looking back, “I told them when I get ready to leave I want to walk out. I walked in, I’m walking out. It was one of those things I was determined to do. I just couldn’t wait to get home. I hadn't seen my family, my son, my daughter, my sisters, my church family. I hadn't seen anybody in 30 days. I was just ready to get home.”
Her walk through the halls of Memorial Hospital last month, in April of 2022, was to a reunion with many of the people who cared for Dana, and had given her that thunderous send-off of applause two years ago.
Dana told the group gathered to reunite with her, “I just wanted to say thank you. It was scary back then because so many people were dying. I just wanted to come back and say thank you. It was very humbling, and I just wanted to come back and say thank you. I really appreciate it, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t thank the Lord for them.”
Tamera Dunseth Rosenbaum, the chief nursing officer for UCHealth Memorial, was one of the many who came to greet Dana. “It’s patients like you that kept them (all our staff) coming back every day back then.”
The reunion was as meaningful for these health care heroes as it was for Dana.
Chelsea Ferguson, an RN with UCHealth, was there in the hallway at Memorial Hospital two years ago, applauding Dana’s discharge. At the time, she said, “Seeing her discharged today was amazing. She was here for almost 30 days and hasn’t been able to see her family. When we saw her get to see her sister, that was so emotional and teary, everyone seemed like they were tearing up a little bit.“
Two years later, Chelsea says, “It’s so nice to see the positive outcomes. There is so much in the news about people that are acutely sick and passing away, but it’s really great to see someone surviving, thriving and doing well two years after being discharged from the hospital.”
Dr. David Steinbruner is chief medical officer for UCHealth Memorial, “This is why we do what we do. People go into medicine for this moment to be able to greet somebody afterward, and she says thank you, and we’re like 'we thank you for giving us the honor to take care of you.' It feels us up, it fills our cup, it’s why we come to work. That’s why we chose the profession that we do, and it’s one of those things that a moment like this will allow us to get through any difficult times coming in the next weeks or months and we will remember moments like this and say 'this is why we do what we do.'”
As sick as Dana was more than two years ago, she tells me there was never a time she didn’t know she would walk out of UCHealth Memorial Central. So much has changed in the fight against the pandemic since then, and now that they are widely available, Dana’s a big supporter of the COVID vaccines.
Dana says the difference between then and now when it comes to COVID is that, “It’s not as scary now but it’s still something to worry about. There are still so many people out there that are not vaccinated and and may not understand the fact that they could get really sick. They could bring COVID home to somebody else who is elderly or even the young people. I’m just 100% for vaccination; I really do believe it helps even though there are some people who have passed from underlying conditions even after they’re vaccinated. I think the vaccine is more helpful than harmful and anytime they want me to get another booster, I will do that. I really worry about a lot of these unnecessary deaths from COVID because people will not get vaccinated.”
Now after this reunion, Dana has another fond memory from what she calls the best - worst experience of her life, and a deeper bond with those who cared for her.
Dana says of the reunion, “It was very humbling, and I just wanted to come back and say thank you to them. I really appreciate it and there’s not a day that goes by that I don't thank the Lord for them.”
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