Sometimes one conversation, a seemingly insignificant interaction can leave a lasting impact on so many people.
That’s the silver lining often found in the COVID-19 cloud, and how Kristen Czerniakowski brainstormed a brilliant way to give back.
She’s a sonographer at Aurora West Allis Medical Center, part of a team that routinely provides scans to COVID patients, including those in the intensive care unit. One day in fall 2020, her colleague called up to one of those care units to see if they could run a scan on a COVID patient. What came through the other end of the phone struck a chord with Czerniakowski.
The ICU nurse was fighting back tears, the months of dedication and devotion to COVID patients was taking its toll. She felt exhausted, overwhelmed and completely burned out.
“It takes a compassionate, empathetic, kind-hearted person to go into health care. It isn’t ever easy. So, to hear this nurse so exhausted was difficult,” said Czerniakowski.
That emotional call sparked a moment of inspiration. Later that day, Czerniakowski began to organize gift baskets for the COVID ICU and emergency department team members. She passed the hat around the radiology department. Before she knew it, Czerniakowski and her colleague Traci Syvock had helped raise more than $700.
The gift baskets turned into bins full of healthy snacks and splurge treats that were individually wrapped for safety and easy to grab on the go. The bins were distributed across the front line, where the heartfelt thanks poured out.
“All the ER caregivers that were there seemed so genuinely appreciative. They seemed in awe,” said Czerniakowski.
That one moment over the phone and the selflessness of those fighting COVID-19 continues to inspire Czerniakowski every day. Through this gesture, Czerniakowski hopes that her colleagues always remember that they are appreciated and that they are not alone.
“It’s OK to be tired and exhausted. That’s when you lean on your team members for support and we are one team and one family,” said Czerniakowski.