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On The Frontline: the community behind the caretakers

Tune in to Siouxland News all week for this special series, exploring life within Sioux City's hospitals during the COVID-19 Pandemic. (Siouxland News)
Tune in to Siouxland News all week for this special series, exploring life within Sioux City's hospitals during the COVID-19 Pandemic. (Siouxland News)
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Hospitals are the places where the community goes to seek help, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, Siouxlanders stepped up and gave back to those working tirelessly on the front lines. Their generosity didn't go unnoticed and in part five of our six-part series, UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's highlights some of their favorite moments of community support. They showed us how those acts of kindness helped front line workers get through their toughest days.

Susan Unger, the President of the St. Lukes Foundation, is used to seeing community members helping out the hospital, but over the past six months, she saw more support from the community than ever before.

The community has helped in ways that we never imagined.

Hospitals serve their communities each and every day, but when COVID-19 hit, it was the community's turn to step up. Lynn Wold, the CEO of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's, has watched is employees struggle through an unprecedented year in healthcare. While his employees were working their hardest, Siouxland stepped up to give back in any way they could, no matter how small. "We had people that were coming in saying they have some masks and they would bring in 5 masks or a dozen masks. All the homemade masks that were made and created. So it was readily a community effort rallying around the hospitals to support us in our time of need."

READ MORE: On the Front Line: From the first COVID-19 cases to treatments

In March and April, a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was putting hospital workers at risk, and Siouxlanders geared up, utilizing their quarantine to make cloth masks. Unger told us, " the community, it overwhelmed us what they did with the handmade face masks. We received almost 10,000 masks from the entire community. It was a network that we didn’t know was out there."

Susan Unger and her team at The St. Luke's Foundation turned their focus on finding the PPE that was in short supply. "One of the things that we did in the foundation is reaching out to so many people in the community just to say, ‘do you have masks? Do you have face shields? Do you have gloves? Do you have goggles?’ And we were amazed over $400,000 worth of personal protection equipment was just out there."

It wasn't just PPE the community supplied but food, too. UnityPoint Health was able to feed its healthcare team two meals a day for 2 months thanks to community donations. Unger recalls one gentleman who came with his son to donate cookies, and she was met with another surprise.

"When I got there, he had purchased these cookies, he had bought some face cream, because if you recall all of the stories of how your face broke down from wearing a mask, and face cream and tied them on to every box of individual cookies. When I asked him, what prompted you to do this?

He said, ‘I got my $1,200 check and I don’t really need it so I spent it buying things to help the frontline workers at St. Luke’s.’

"That was phenomenal to me that somebody thought to do that and just unexpected," Unger recalled.

READ MORE: On the Front Line: Life during the surge

While Siouxland's surge has subsided, the fight against COVID-19 is far from over and Unger says, hospitals still need your help.

We continue to need more personal protection equipment. Goggles, face masks, gloves, anything that you have in your business that you might be able to donate.

Especially as the holiday season arrives the hospitals are faced with a double threat, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and flu season.

According to Unger, the need is still out there. "If you are looking at doing something to show your gratitude during the holidays and as we lead up to them, think about those front line healthcare workers. They are working 12 hours. They are in those warm outfits. Sometimes they don’t get a break and they need that time to just stop and have a nice, warm meal."

Through it all, the team at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's are thankful that the community continues to help them through this global crisis.

READ MORE: On The Front Line: Patient Care in a Pandemic

Above all, the team at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's is grateful for everything the public has done to support them.

"Just gratitude. Extreme gratitude to our community" Wold said. "There is so many people in a time of crisis and a pandemic like this. The fact that the community would really focus on the hospitals and recognize that we play a unique role in several aspects of life in our community. But in a health pandemic, we are critical."

If you look up at S. Luke's, you can read the words "You Matter", and Unger told us that is exactly what the community said to them.

"I think what the community said to us is what we’ve been saying to them," she told us. "You matter to this world. They really supported us by saying, ‘you matter,’ and did everything they could to help us."

For more information on what challenges or caretakers are facing inside the hospital, check out part four of our series: On The Front Line: Caring for the Caretakers

The Siouxland News team reached out to MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center to see how the community has supported them through this time. Those requests went unfulfilled.

If you missed any of our stories this week you can find them at this link.

Tune in October Friday 8th for our final segment, where we explore how COVID-19 has changed the face of healthcare and how it will continue to change it going forward.

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