By Jamie Leary

LONE TREE, Colo. (CBS4)– While Colorado has yet to see the anticipated surge of COVID-19 cases it has been preparing for, the mental toll is real. Not only on health care workers, but patients as well.

That’s where Sky Ridge Medical Center’s Chaplin, Rev. Laurie Jeddeloh comes in.

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“It is more stressful, but we’re all doing the best we can and I’ve always said that it’s an honor and a privilege to be caring for people, to be sharing in these tough moments in their lives and to help them through them,” said Jeddeloh.

Jeddeloh’s role has changed significantly. Not only has she lost critical volunteer staff, she is trying to help families adjust to the no visitor restrictions.

“It’s very painful for everyone. We hate to see that patients can’t have the support of their loved ones there so right away, we began to say, please make sure that your phone is handy in the room, and don’t worry that you have to talk all the time. Just FaceTime while you’re eating or watching a show together,” she continued, “Just the other day I set up an iPad so that a husband and a son could visit with their mother who was in the hospital.”

Even for end of life, sometimes, Jeddeloh is the only one physically allowed in the room.

“We all want to have family there when we’re at end of life. We do find some exceptions when people don’t have COVID-19 we find some ways at times you know, to bring a family member in but we hope that it doesn’t happen. It’s so painful. I just… I ache for the families and pray for them.”

Sky Ridge Medical Center has had just over 50 positive COVID-19 cases and currently, there are 21 positive cases in house. While the number isn’t high, Jeddeloh says staff need the support more than ever.

“We began doing a lot more staff care because the staff began to get more worried about their own lives, their families, what this virus means to them,” she said.

Donna Toland, Director of Critical Care for Sky Ridge Medical Center says Jeddeloh checks in on staff multiple times a day. It only takes a few words to make a big difference.

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“It’s nice because sometimes, they’ll come and just pray beside you. There’s a sense of belonging and feeling there that… it just kind of gives you the inspiration to keep going.”

Toland said she had no clue how much work it would be to open up a second unit for COVID-19 patients or just preparing for a surge in general. While she says they’re ready for anything?

“Sometimes it’s just a 2 second, ‘Hey you doin’?’ ‘Okay’… ‘cause we do like to have the front, of, ‘We’ve got this’ but sometimes, it’s nice to have someone just to reach out to us as well.”

In addition to checking on patients and their families, Jeddeloh checks on staff multiple times a day. She has also begun a daily recording that anyone can call and listen to. She calls it her daily affirmation.

“Instead of a weekly service, which we had a tradition of doing, I thought people needed a little bit of encouragement everyday so I worked with IT to find a phone line and every day I do a thought for the day, it’s a minute and a half, no more!”

She said the recording cuts her off at a minute and a half or she would likely talk forever. It has become popular with patients and staff who have started to share it with family and friends.

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“I’ve heard from many of them that they really appreciate it and they’re calling in everyday and I love that they’re doing it and even the night staff call when they come to work because it’s 24/7!”

While the day to day work has changed significantly for Jeddeloh, her mission hasn’t and after 17 years, she wants people to know one thing,

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“I want them to know how inspiring it is to watch the health care workers on the frontlines. I am so touched by how these people put their fears aside stay calm and just go to work taking care of human lives, you know, that are very sick. It is impressive to watch and more than ever I am proud to be in health care alongside them.”

Jamie Leary