St. Cloud nurses publish book about working frontlines of COVID-19 pandemic

More than three years since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Minnesota, a group of nurses from St. Cloud Hospital have released a book documenting their experience on the frontlines.

Lisa Kilgard, Nicole May, and Amanda Shank just released the book "Just Breathe" a compilation of stories from frontline workers at St. Cloud Hospital. The nurses say they hope the book serves as a historical record of what it was like working on the COVID wing of the hospital.

"There’s tears, there’s laughter, and some stories you look at and you say I don’t even remember that," said one of the authors, Nicole May. "That’s part of why we wrote the book so that we can remember those little things from the day to day."

The women say at the height of the pandemic, there were people dying almost every day at the Centracare hospital. They were working extra hours and often choosing to distance themselves from family to keep them healthy. 

"When we collected these stories, there was no vaccine in sight. We were just doing what we could do every day until somebody figured something out," said Lisa Kilgard. "The nurses on this unit never got a break from it."

Kilgard said as mothers, they also hope their children can one day read these stories and understand why they were gone so much during that time period. Kilgard’s daughter even wrote a story for the book from her perspective as the child of a frontline worker.

"Unless you were within these walls when all that happened, you’ll never understand what these nurses and doctors and all the staff here went through," said Kilgard. "This book really gives a good insight."

The nurses reflect on how at the start of the pandemic, they didn’t even have proper personal protective equipment and no one knew exactly how the virus was transmitted which increased their anxiety.

"There’s people who have their own beliefs about what went on but we worked so hard, we tried to save all the patients we could," said Amanda Shank.

"Just Breathe" is currently available to purchase. All proceeds go towards publishing the book. The nurses say they aren’t making a profit.