(FOX 9) - A walk through the halls of any Minnesota hospital and you would never know it's Thanksgiving day. The staff is so busy, they barely have time to eat, and many of the patients are so sick they are sedated.
“There’s not a ton of things that you can see that are positive but there are. There’s people that are working hard, there are people trying to get everybody through this,” said Lisa Kilgard, a nurse on the COVID floor at St. Cloud Hospital.
Kilgard is among the hundreds of healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients over the holiday. Her employer, CentraCare, is overwhelmed with cases. An official with the rural health system told us last weekend that they were at capacity.
“We are picking up a lot of extra hours, especially the healthy staff,” said Registered Nurse at Hennepin Healthcare Jennifer Karkoz. “My co-workers are the best and I count on them every day to get through this shift.”
While working holidays is nothing new, this Thanksgiving is strikingly different.
“The most striking thing about thanksgiving this year is the absence of patient’s families,” said Dr. John Litell. Litell works in the Intensive Care Unit at Abbott Northwestern. “An important part of care is bringing loved ones around. We’ve always known that, but this is the first time we really feel it…especially on a day like Thanksgiving.”
Staff members are using technology to connect patients that are well enough with their families.
“He told me on the phone call, ‘we love you’ and I’m like, ‘the patient?’ And he’s like no we’re so grateful we love you guys,” ICU nurse Amy Peterson recalls a conversation with a patient’s family Thursday.
Peterson was preparing to bring the patient out of sedation just long enough to video chat with their family.
“I’m going to take the iPad in there and let them Zoom with their family and have that conversation and have that moment with their loved ones.”
But they realize that many families aren’t staying distant for the holiday. In the back of their minds, these hospital staff know that they could be seeing another surge in two to three weeks.
“Please do what you can to sacrifice some of that togetherness that we all crave so we can have many more thanksgivings together and so others can have the same,” said Litell.