‘We are all part of this community’

‘We are all part of this community’

“We all have things we miss. But remember, some of us have people we miss, not things. Some of us have empty chairs at the dinner table. Some have lost mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles and neighbors and children.”

Those passionate words from orchestra teacher and local musician Audrey Nowak are harrowingly true, and nearly became her reality this September. As a zealous mother of three who considered herself to be in good health, she was surprised when she soon found herself isolated in an ICU bed at Aurora BayCare Medical Center, fighting to simply breathe for 5 grueling days.

“Being alone in the hospital with COVID is so scary. Of course, no visitors are allowed,” Nowak says. “I am so grateful for the doctors and nurses who helped me. Even though I’ve seen it so many times on television, it was still a bit shocking to see all the doctors and nurses looking like Martians. But it didn’t take long for me to see the smile in their eyes… They always made sure I knew I was important to them. I cannot say enough about these heroes.”

In addition to the care she received at the hospital, the support she received on social media kept her motivated to recover, from virtual prayers to kind messages on Facebook.

“I did not have enough breath or energy to talk to anyone,” she says. “But when I felt scared or when I couldn’t sleep, I would read all the well-wishes and prayers on Facebook, and I am so grateful… I cannot tell you how much that helped me through.”

Dr. Krystle Wasmundt, internal medicine provider and hospitalist at Aurora BayCare, treated Nowak during this second COVID-19 surge, saying, “This surge has been much more demanding than the first. It has truly stretched our hospital resources and staff to capacity at times. Many have graciously worked extra hours to fill in the gaps.”

As the virus continues to ravage our communities, some people may find comfort through making light of our situation. But Nowak warns against this, urging the public to band together – each and every one of us.

“The scary truth is – there is no way to predict how it will affect you,” she expresses. “It is so hurtful when people say it is not a big deal ‘for most’. For most? We are all part of this community.”

And just as people prayed for her in her time of need, Nowak continues to pray for her family, friends, neighbors, and fellow strangers as she continues her journey to recovery from COVID-19.

“I pray every day that our community will show more compassion and more wisdom. Wear a mask and don’t gather in large groups. It’s such a small thing that will make such a big impact. Our healthcare workers have been sacrificing so much for us. One way we can express our gratitude is by respecting what they are asking us to do.”

With the holidays among us, Dr. Wasmundt has a message to share with the public.

“Our main goal is to ensure that we, as an acute care hospital, are available to serve everyone in our community who needs us, not only COVID-19 cases, but all medical urgencies,” she stresses. “As we are now in the midst of the holiday season, we expect a usual rise in hospitalizations, which will be compounded by COVID-19 this year. Please continue to be diligent as you have been doing throughout this pandemic; keep your distance, wash your hands, wear a mask.”

Knowing the holidays are a difficult time to forego gatherings, she also adds, “Also, please continue to look out for each other; check up on neighbors, family and friends, especially those who are most vulnerable physically and emotionally. Your continued efforts will help ensure that we can be available for all who need us.”

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About the Author

Brianna Wunsch
Brianna Wunsch

Brianna Wunsch, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator for Advocate Aurora Health with a BA in public affairs from University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. In her free time, Brianna enjoys living an active lifestyle through biking, hiking and working out at the gym, but even more than that, she especially loves spending quality time with her two cats (Arthur and Loki), son and husband.