Cards from the heart

Working eight hours a day, 19-year-old Hannah Wendorf of Grafton made dozens of thank-yous for the unsung heroes of the pandemic like her father

SITTING AT THE kitchen counter of her Grafton home, 19-year-old Hannah Wendorf displayed some of the 85 cards she made for hospital workers to acknowledge the fact that in addition to doctors and nurses there are many others helping in the fight against Covid-19. One of those people is her father Mike, a respiratory therapist. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

Hannah Wendorf is definitely on a mission.

For eight hours a day over the course of a week, the 19-year-old college student turned out one handmade card after another at her family’s Grafton home until she made 85 of them for employees of Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Ozaukee in Mequon.

The colorful cards, every one of them with a handwritten message, were delivered last week.

The message behind Hannah’s mission is that in addition to doctors and nurses there is a long list of hospital employees who are fighting the war against Covid-19 on a daily basis.

“Everyone is thanking the doctors and nurses but there are a lot of people working very hard, everyone from people who clean the hospitals to the workers who feed the people at the hospitals,” Hannah, a 2018 Grafton High School graduate, said.

“It’s a group effort. It’s everyone working together, and I guess I just wanted to bring attention to that.”

Hannah knows a lot about the unsung heroes on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Her father Mike is one of them.

As a respiratory therapist at the Mequon hospital, he helps provide the ventilator care that the sickest Covid-19 patients need. 

“A big part of a respiratory therapist’s job is managing the ventilator and keeping all of those patients stable,” Hannah said. “Unfortunately, when it comes time for them to be removed from the ventilator, my dad or one of his co-workers are the only ones there to say goodbye.”

Hannah said her father doesn’t talk much about his work when he’s home, but she can tell it weighs on him.

A respiratory therapist for more than 20 years, Mr. Wendorf typically cares for people who are severely asthmatic, suffer from chronic lung conditions or have just undergone surgery. Now, he said, he cares primarily for people suffering from the coronavirus.

And with some people in his department isolated from Covid-19 patients because they are considered to be at high risk for developing serious complications from the virus, Mr. Wendorf said, he is spending long hours at the hospital. Typical 36-hour workweeks have turned into ones that are 48 to 60 hours long worked in 12-hour shifts.

The fact there are patients who don’t recover from the virus adds to the stress of his job, he said. 

“I’ve had a few patients that we’ve taken off ventilators to let them pass,” Mr. Wendorf said. 

Because hospitals are closed to visitors,  employees are the only ones with patients during their last minutes.

“The hospital is now using iPads and laptops so family members can say their last goodbyes,” he said. “It’s pretty sad.

“These are tough times for everyone who works at hospitals, even the housekeepers and the people who deliver food trays — people who never thought they’d be in a position like this.”

That’s why Hannah, who after doing about two hours of homework a day, dedicated the rest of her waking hours to thanking everyone she could at the hospital where her father works. She didn’t have to look far to see that her efforts were appreciated.

“My father was a little emotional when I finished the cards,” she said. 

Of his daughter’s project, Mr. Wendorf said it was touching that “she took the time and cared enough to do this.”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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