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Ascension Via Christi respiratory therapists, nurses to help Ascension colleagues in Chicago

On Sunday, seven Ascension Via Christi nurses flew to Detroit to help Ascension Michigan colleagues on the forefront of the COVID-19 battle. On Wednesday, a second wave of Via Christi caregivers left for Chicago to join the fight against the novel strain of the coronavirus there.
 
Respiratory therapists Melanie Lewis and Rob Winegrad, who were driving to Chicago, headed out after a 6 a.m. send-off by colleagues gathered at the front entrance of Ascension Via Christi St. Francis.
 
Lewis says she had been thinking about traveling when the opportunity to volunteer for temporary assignment to help Ascension colleagues serving in COVID-19 hotspots arose.
 
"You just see those videos on the national news of people crying, begging for help," says Lewis, who joined Via Christi after earning her degree six years ago. "The only thing holding me back was fear and that wasn't a good enough excuse not to go."  
 
While the reports of hospitals running out of personal protective equipment and fearing for their lives are alarming, Lewis says she has always had the PPE she needs at St. Francis and feels confident that she will have what she needs in Chicago. 
 
"It's one of our Ascension hospitals," she says, making the unknown less frightening. "You know what you can expect."
 
Four hours later, Ascension Via Christi nurses gathered at the Wichita airport to offer their prayers and well wishes for a safe journey and return home.
 
Among them was Susie Harrision, a registered nurse who, after having worked 21 years in the aviation industry, earned her nursing degree and joined Ascension Via Christi, where she works in the regional burn center at St. Francis. It was a career change inspired by her husband's battle with esophageal cancer.
 
"Before he died, he spent a lot of time in hospitals in Kansas City and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania," she says. "He had some good nurses and some bad ones. It was the good ones that made me want to be a nurse because they made him feel so much better."
 
She says she became a nurse to do something good and serve a higher purpose" and volunteering for a temporary assignment in Chicago is an extension of that.
 
"I feel bad that they are working long hours and that it is so stressful there," says Susie, whose fellow travelers are nurses Jacqueline Robinson, who serves at St. Francis, and Mary Garcia and Meredith Powers, both at St. Joseph. "So I am happy to be able to help out."
 
Between now and Sunday, a registered nurse from Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg and four certified nurse assistants from  Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan will be heading to Indianapolis and Chicago to join their Ascension teammates there; a third group of nurses from Via Christi's Wichita hospitals will be heading to Chicago as well.
 
"Across Ascension Kansas, we have more than four dozen caregivers who have volunteered to serve where they are most needed, a living example of the benefits of being part of a national ministry like Ascension,” says Carla Yost, chief nursing and quality officer for Ascension Via Christi. "We are all for one and one for all in our service to patients, families and our communities."
 
To offer your support and prayers for the Ascension Via Christi frontline caregivers who have volunteered for temporary duty at Ascension ministries caring for patients in COVID-19 hot zones, go to wecare@ascension.org.
About Roz Hutchinson

Roz Hutchinson is a Wichita wife, mother and chief spoiler of six grandkids and three Chihuahuas, a die-hard women's basketball fan, and director of Communications and Public Relations for Ascension Via Christi.