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Stories from the Field

It is an extraordinary time for our world, our nation and our state. We are honored to serve our community and to share some extraordinary moments of courage, compassion, inspiration, and generosity while we tackle the impacts of the COVID-19 virus. Your support is our secret superpower. Thank you!

Heroes of Hennepin Healthcare

Jose Luna

Jose Luna, Security Officer

“I was born and raised in New York so when everything started happening I got to be so nervous about whether I’d be able to see my family. Would things ever get back to normal and be like they were before?

Then I saw the way people stepped up and showed how much they cared about each other and the work we do. We all play a part and we’re all important pieces of the family. So even when we have to do things like change visiting policies and keep people apart, we’re doing it in a way that shows we understand and we’re there for the families.

We’re all part of a big family and that’s helping us do what’s needed to keep everyone safe.”

Nicole Grimlie hero photo 1

Nicole Grimlie, Sr Staff Nurse, Emergency Department

“When you’re working in a stabilization room it is crowded. It can get hot and you’re there for multiple hours at a time. Wearing the PPE, the N-95 masks, you don’t really get deep breaths so you can start to feel light headed. It’s difficult to hear and people’s voices are muffled.

It’s been difficult but we have a strong teamwork approach and it’s become even stronger. We do game planning and preparation beforehand. We work on clear and concise communication. We even try to find humor and make each other smile. We all come from different backgrounds but we come together as a team.

I’m proud that, even with all the challenges, we’re still all focused on compassionate care.”

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Abby Thacher, EMS Educator

“It’s been a rollercoaster. There are days when I’m feeling motivated and I feel like I’m able to still accomplish things, and then others where I struggle to just form a sentence and to see how I can contribute.

One of the more rewarding parts of my job right now is developing mental wellness programming for the EMS team, offering peer support and wellness.

It’s important for everyone to know they’re not in this alone, that they have support and we can be there for each other.”

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Colleen Crampton, Director of Laboratories

“This was like a slow moving tornado heading our way and we had to get prepared.

We had to think about equipment, logistics, supplies, and there were challenges nobody could have anticipated. For example, all of the swabs that we need to conduct testing for coronavirus are made in Northern Italy. All of them. And suddenly Northern Italy was shut down.

Our team is full of problem solvers. We moved quickly to make sure we had the staff in place, the supplies we needed, and the knowledge about how to get testing done. We were one of the leaders in the state in getting our testing set up and available quickly.

I wasn’t surprised by this because we believe in Hennepin Healthcare’s mission: serving underserved populations… serving everyone.

We knew we just needed to get this done.”

Jill Carter hero photo 1

Jill Carter, Exercise Physiologist, Cardiac Rehab and "PPE Buddy"

“When my normal outpatient duties were taken away, I asked myself, ‘What can I do?’ I felt a need to contribute even in the chaos. We’re used to helping people every day and it didn’t feel right to not be involved when I could do something to help at my hospital.

I got trained on how to help people with PPE and I went to the units with the COVID patients to make sure all the doctors and nurses knew what to do to protect themselves.

People are putting themselves in harm’s way for patients and they’re so busy, I can help them remember to do things like tuck their cuffs into their gloves and put on their eye shields. I was worried at first people would see me as intruding and telling them what to do but people are so appreciative and collaborative. We’re all under the gun so let’s get through it.”

Jerry Hanlon

Jerry Hanlon, Sr. Staff Nurse, Emergency Department

“Every day when I go home I have to worry about whether I’ve been exposed and what I might be carrying with me. I’m around it all the time and each day might be the day that I catch it.

I haven’t thought about myself but I think about others. At the grocery store or at home with my husband, I do everything I can to be safe but I live with that constant fear. Every day is a new exposure for me, and I don’t want to be the one who spreads it to someone else.

That’s why the greatest support I get is from the people I work with and the camaraderie from others who are in the same situation. That’s life now. Work is the worst place to be and the best place to be, because it’s the only human contact we have for the duration of this pandemic.”

Catherine Gonzalez-Klang Interpreter 2

Catherine Gonzales-Klang, Interpreter

“It’s definitely hard as an interpreter to have to do so much remotely. I sit in my office most of the day looking at a screen and trying to help when usually I’m walking around and working in person with patients and the staff. It’s very isolating.

Usually the remote connection goes well, but there are times it’s more difficult, especially with elderly patients. One of my first COVID patients had to be intubated and was sedated and I was just trying to explain to her what was going on.

Sometimes, particularly when the patient is having a hard time breathing, I have to take a moment after a call to try to calm myself, stay strong, and not cry.”

Aaron Robinson Hero photo

Aaron Robinson, MD, Emergency Medicine Resident

“I remember the first case I saw, an elderly patient came through the front door and was so short of breath he couldn’t talk. I knew right then COVID was here to stay and would change life as we know it.

Working in the Emergency Department, we are used to running toward trouble and helping those who need it the most. As we watched the pandemic spread we knew we were going to see the sickest patients. It’s definitely fear inducing, worrying about PPE and knowing we’re on the front lines. But it’s also a unique and interesting challenge and a time to step up.”

Fedlu Awol Hero photo Cropped

Fedlu Awol, Medical Technologist

“My wife is a pharmacy technician working with COVID patients and we have two school-aged kids. We talk about it a lot and we take precautions. My kids know when I get home there is no hugging until I change first and get washed up. It’s gotten to the point that my kids ask me if I’ve washed to make sure.

I know I’m not particularly at risk at work. The virus isn’t going to jump out of the test tube and I have the PPE that I need. I’m probably more at risk going to the grocery store. Still, I think about it and there is some fear and uncertainty.

My kids are supportive. If I’m feeling bad because I couldn’t help with their homework they tell me, ‘Don’t worry. You’re saving lives.’”


Fred Ames, Director of Facilities

“At first it was scary for everyone. I was concerned about bringing it home to my loved ones. I’m 66 years old. I have heart disease and I’m a cancer survivor. I’m at risk and don’t know how I’d fight the virus. But I get strength from what I learn at work and how we are all taking this challenge on and staying careful.

Every day is another chapter. There are challenges every day, not just during COVID. This time the magnitude is different but we have great teamwork and that’s a precious commodity that helps us solve problems and get things done.”

Yeshi Sherpa Hero Photo Cropped

Yeshi Sherpa, Inpatient Phlebotomist

“The PPE makes my job a lot harder. The masks can make my glasses fog up which is bad when you’re drawing blood and you need to see the veins. My hands are rough and dry from washing them so often with alcohol. Going into each room requires extra time because we need to be so careful and take precautions.I’ve seen people and how they are suffering. A lot of the patients want to talk, but it can be difficult for them because they are coughing a lot. But I try to listen as I can, even though I want to get in and out quickly.
I think about how important it is to relieve the pressure on the nurses by doing what I can to help.”

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Caitlin Eccles Radtke, MD, Infectious Disease

“When this started, I made a decision to stop visiting my parents and my sister’s family for fear of spreading the virus. My sister has four kids (a four year old and almost 1-year-old triplets) and we’re all very close.
It’s hard to be isolated from family. One day I stopped by to drop some things off for my sister and my nephew asked if I could come in and play. I told him I wasn’t able to right now because I didn’t want to bring in any germs. He said, sadly, “Auntie Caits, maybe you can come and play when the virus is gone.”

Complete heartbreak.

We’re working so hard to protect patients and staff and the community as a whole. That mission keeps me going. But every now and then I have a moment where I stop and rest and consider what is happening, and I know there is an emotional side to this that we’ll be dealing with for a long time in the future.”


John Sylvester: Paramedic, Hennepin EMS

"I think my approach to being a paramedic has changed largely due to my own anxiety about the coronavirus. I feel like I have gone through what amounts to a grief process in the last few weeks. I have been angry about it, I have been anxious about it, and I have settled largely on acceptance.

As far as an impact on my family, I feel that with a newborn, there is an extra level of anxiety. It has been especially hard on our parents not being able to experience him like they had hoped. It is also obviously been difficult on my wife during her maternity leave, to be so isolated from her support structure outside of our immediate family.  In some ways, being able to come to work and have what amounts to a hands-on impact on our local response to the pandemic is easier than staying at home with a newborn and socially isolated."

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Thomas Wyatt, MD: Medical Director, Emergency Department

“Putting on personal protective equipment is uncomfortable. It gets very warm and it makes it challenging to communicate. Masks, gowns and face shields can be barriers as you are working quickly to care for patients.  But when our team gathers together and we’re putting on our PPE, it fosters a sense of teamwork.  We game plan together and we look out for each other.

In many ways COVID-19 is presenting us with challenges we have never dealt with before. At the same time, seeing how people respond has been inspiring. Yes, we’ve seen very sick patients. But the professionalism and commitment I’ve seen shows that we are more than up for the challenge.”

laura miller at nurses station

Laura Miller, RN: Nurse Manager, Medical Intensive Care Unit

“The sense of isolation on the unit is hard to get used to.  Doors are closed.  Nurses have to take time to put on protective gear just to go in and see a patient. Patients are separated from their families. There are tragic stories of patients who are having end of life conversations over an iPad or on a phone because their families can’t be with them.

Sometimes we find ourselves asking if this will end.  Will we wake up from this nightmare.  But until then, we continue working to help our patients. We don’t complain. We pull together because that’s what we do.”

hennepin heroes ed group with masks and signs

The Superpower of Generosity

  • Over 300,000 of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as been donated including: surgical masks, N95s, homemade masks, face shields, gloves, medical hijabs and hand sanitizer.
  • Donations fully funded a Convalescent Plasma Study launched by Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute.
  • Thanks to in-kind and financial donations, healthcare staff have been nourished with snacks and food since March 23, keeping their spirits and bodies energized to last through this crisis.
  • Patient experience has also been enhanced during this time with Ipads and NICview for virtual visits for families with babies in the NICU.
  • Patient comfort bags offer supplies and activities for hospital inpatients isolated from visitors.
  • Cell phone chargers, pulse oximeters, blood pressure cuffs, and thermometers,  help staff provide care for patients, safely, outside of the hospital setting.
  • $42,530 raised during Firefighters for Healing two week $10K matching challenge April 27-May 8.

Swapping Sails for Faceshields

Tim Carlson of Sailcrafters

Tim Carlson, Owner of Sailcrafters

Marines are known for jumping in first and responding to a crisis with vigor and with a plan. Ex-Marine Tim Carlson of Sailcrafters saw a need in late March, just as the COVID-19 virus was affecting his community. His plan, use the 630-pound roll of clear plastic in his shop, used to create windows in sails, for face shields to protect healthcare workers.

The COVID-19 virus is spread between people who are in close contact with each other or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The face shield, along with a face mask, is a critical piece of personal protection equipment (PPE). And back in March, there was a national shortage of all types of PPE.

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Why I Give

Ella Roether

Ella Roether, 15 years old

My summer trip to Israel with United Synagogue Youth was cancelled due to the pandemic. It was an adventure I was really looking forward too. But it didn’t take long to realize there was another purpose for the money I saved. I was watching the news one day and was struck by how little our healthcare workers were being supported for their dedication during this crisis. There was an image of a parade of protesters, angry about being told to stay home, being blocked by doctors and nurses. It was such a powerful photograph and really moved me.

I realized how fortunate I was to be able to stay at home, safely with my family, while healthcare workers were isolating from their own children and risking their lives to take care of others. After talking with my uncle, who works at Hennepin Healthcare, I become even more passionate about supporting Hennepin Heroes. Knowing that Hennepin Healthcare’s mission is to serve everyone, even those undocumented or without financial resources is awesome.

The healthcare workers at Hennepin Healthcare are working so incredibly hard. They should know there are a lot of people out here supporting them, loving them, and grateful for what they are doing. That is why I give.

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