Guitar, food and faithful friends help him stay positive
“It’s kind of like going into battle. I’m trying to do my part of the mission to reach the goal,” said Jake Rasmussen, Occupational Therapist in the MRICU at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. “If I’m not here, the job’s not going to get done.”
Rasmussen works with some of the most serious COVID cases. Having worked in occupational therapy for almost 13 years, he tries to help patients continue to care for themselves in even the simplest tasks.
“We want people to remind themselves that they are still themselves. Before all this you were taking care of yourself, brushing your own teeth,” said Rasmussen. “You are still yourself and can still take care of yourself to the best of your ability. It helps you maintain your sense of identity.”
Rasmussen wasn’t always in health care. His first career was as a salesman for George Foreman Grill, but he started to burn out. Around that same time, his grandfather broke his hip. Taking his grandfather to therapy sessions showed Rasmussen just how helpful physical therapy was.
“I saw how that gave him a second shot at life,” said Rasmussen. “That inspired me to go back to school and go into health care.”
Every day, Rasmussen looks forward to going to work because he has the chance to make the world a little better. During the pandemic, that same motivation drives him.
“It’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever done,” said Rasmussen. “A lot of patients don’t have the capacity to do what they would normally do. We’ve seen people get so weak that they can’t even lift their head.”
Every Friday, he takes time to review the progress his patients made that week. When they’ve improved since Monday, it encourages both Rasmussen and his patients. Not every patient makes progress.
“Every day I watch some people have this slow and steady decline. We’re pulling all stops to help them and sometimes everything you’ve got isn’t good enough,” said Rasmussen. “People dying alone is very real, and watching nurses step in to be with someone in those last moments is really moving. They really become a surrogate family.”
Caring for COVID patients has been hard for Rasmussen, but the support of family and friends has made such a difference. Every day when he gets home from work, he throws his clothes in the hamper in his garage, runs to the shower and then spends an hour decompressing. Playing guitar has been one of the best ways to take his mind off things. His neighbors do their part – they never complain about the volume.
A group of Rasmussen’s friends found a unique way to encourage him and his team. They buy lunch for the MRICU team each week from a local restaurant to help support both local businesses and the care team.
“The chefs and the restaurants are really appreciating it and we’re really appreciating it,” said Rasmussen. “We’re going to get through this.”
About the Author
Ben Hoekstra is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked in marketing and PR for various Milwaukee nonprofits and received his master’s degree in Corporate Communications from Marquette University. He enjoys the outdoors, cooking, and all things Milwaukee.