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St. Mark’s Hospital commemorates those lost after 2 years of the COVID pandemic

St. Mark's Hospital Pandemic Memorial-1, March 16, 2022
Emily Means
/
KUER
Former patient Michelle Liechty, seated in the walker to the right, attends a COVID-19 memorial service at St. Mark’s Hospital, along with health care staff.

It’s been two years since the World Health Organization officially declared the COVID outbreak a pandemic. On Wednesday, staff from St. Mark’s Hospital in Millcreek held a memorial honoring patients and frontline workers.

White prayer flags waved in the breeze over a pavilion outside the hospital commemorating patients who have died from COVID-19.

Jared Johnstun, a pulmonary and critical care doctor at the hospital, said he was there to honor those represented by the flags as well as one person he treated, Michelle Liechty, who survived — against the odds.

“To me, Michelle represents that all of the hard work that we did, all the heartache that we lived through, that it's worth something,” Johnstun said. “I love the fact that we were able to help somebody get fixed to the point that she's going to go out and make a difference in the world. So I feel hope. I feel sorrow. And I feel justified.”

St. Mark's Hospital Pandemic Memorial-2, March 16, 2022
Emily Means
/
KUER
Nicki Roderman, St. Mark’s Hospital's chief nursing officer, said “it takes a whole village” of staff to respond to the pandemic.

Still, the past two years have taken a toll. He said the pandemic has changed him as a physician.

“I've always loved being a doctor,” he said. “But what we went through as health care workers, we had to learn to rely on each other. We would go to work and fight every day knowing that the majority of our patients weren't going to live. I absolutely won’t be the same, and I don't think anyone that's lived through this from a health care standpoint will be the same, either.”

Nicki Roderman, the hospital’s chief nursing officer, said she hopes what the public has learned since the start of the pandemic is patience.

“They bring their loved ones here to get taken care of,” she said. “They may or may not agree with the way we're doing the treatment because of what they heard elsewhere. But we're following the science, and we want them to understand that health care workers are here for a purpose. We're all here for the patients.”

As of Wednesday, the Utah Department of Health reported 4,553 Utahns have died from the virus. Nearly 34,000 have been hospitalized.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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