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Mayo Clinic Health System front line workers share their personal pandemic experiences

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Mayo Clinic

LA CROSSE, Wis. - (WXOW) - Mayo Clinic Health System held a virtual news conference on Tuesday where front line workers shared their stories and experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Viewers heard from five different healthcare professionals working within the Mayo Clinic Health System.

Carly Windschitl is a COVID intensive care unit nurse from Mayo Clinic in Arizona who also helped out at sites in the Midwest when additional help was necessary. Jon Clark is a respiratory therapist in the COVID intensive care unit at Mayo Clinic in Florida. Jeremy Perso works as a respiratory therapist in the intensive care unit at Mayo Clinic in Southwest Wisconsin. Aimee Boerger serves as a lab technician at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. Lastly, Heidi K. Leibold works as a nurse at the infusion therapy center at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Each has been in the healthcare field for a number of years. They've seen different COVID cases and how it varies from patient to patient. Those attending asked questions about specific things they were curious about from vaccine concerns to the most difficult part of the last nine months.

Jon Clark discussed the challenges he faced keeping the patients connected with their families while they weren't able to see each other. He explained that it was very difficult for many and the feelings of isolation were not easy for patients to deal with, especially when they are battling the virus.

Jeremy Perso explained that in the beginning they had COVID patients coming in but over the last nine months, the patients took over the hospitals as the numbers increased.

For Carly Windschitl, her experience has been unique because she has worked in Arizona as well as in Eau Claire during the surge in Wisconsin because extra help was necessary. She volunteered when Mayo Clinic asked if any frontline workers could help in an area where it was needed.

She explained that she has seen different surges and in the beginning of the pandemic in Arizona, things were tougher because they weren't quite sure what to expect. As she arrived in Eau Claire, although every case is different, she has been through it before.

Aimee Boerger, a lab technician, has seen different things than all the others because she worked directly with testing kits and getting results to people as quickly as possible. Boerger explained that in some areas test results took a few days to get back to patients but with Mayo Clinic, they worked to get them back within 24 hours.

They all said that while the light at the end of the tunnel is near and maybe starting to show, it's not here yet and people need to be very mindful of their safety precautions.

"Just being in the hospital, in the ICU, do I really feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is here? Right now I'd have to say no," said Jeremy Perso. "We're as packed to the gills with critical patients as we have ever been and while I do trust the progression of care and the vaccine, and things are all traveling in the right direction to make this start turning around in the coming months, I can't say that I feel it immediately."

"It's almost been a whole year and things like this do take time," said Carly Windschitl, R.N. "It's not just going to go away in a day and I appreciate Jeremy's comments that while we may think there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it's not here quite yet, so I think vigilance is important."

As far as the vaccine goes, each professional said they trust the science behind it and they believe that everyone should be vaccinated. Perso said he was hesitant at first because he wasn't sure how rushed it was but Mayo has done a good job at educating them about it along with the safety and importance of the vaccine.

Mayo Clinic Health System also provided the public with extra resources and information about COVID that they can use to their advantage:

They also ask that people should be mindful of travel plans this holiday season and work to keep yourselves and loved ones safe.