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‘Stay safe’: Unsung heroes of the pandemic keep hospitals running

MADISON (WKOW) -- As Lisa Travis mops the floors of a vacant intensive care room on the seventh floor of UnityPoint Health - Meriter Hospital, she knows if she misses just one spot, the coronavirus could spread on the unit.

"Just to keep things clean, you know, to make sure that we're doing right by our patients," she said. "Now, we're really a role and part of keeping them alive."

Her cleaning procedures have gotten more strategic now, wiping down every touch point and making sure she's fully-protected in PPE.

Travis is one of 117 housekeeping staff members at the hospital. She focuses on the ICU where COVID-19 patients far outnumber any others. She's available to nurses by a quick page if needed.

"We really work together, the nursing staff and myself, to make sure that things are being taken care of in the right way," she told 27 News.

It's not just keeping the hospital clean and sanitized. She's also one more source of comfort for patients in isolation.

"I try to have little conversations with them, nothing too much that'll stress them out or get them worked up or anything, but just ask them how their day is going, is there anything I can get you," she said. "Even though I'm housekeeping, I can still help."

Seven floors below the ICU, 92 food service staff members are working behind the scenes through it all, too.


Brenda Frary preps Thanksgiving meal

"Everybody's under a lot of stress right now. None of us wanted any of this," said Brenda Frary.

Frary has seen a lot of changes working in the hospital's kitchen for 40 years, but nothing can compare to this.

"I'm one of the cooks. We just have a lot of prep work to do. We have a lot of special diets, because of the COVID patients," she said.

People who have COVID-19 can't always eat the same foods as others because of breathing problems, so the kitchen has adapted its meals to include more pureed and blended foods. The team meets regularly to prep and plan.

As they cook up meals for patients and staff members, they've kept a focus on teamwork.

"We've worked together and, since COVID has happened, we've all been very sincere with each other," Frary said. "Our goal is, we are here for the patients and for the people in the cafeteria because they are our customers."

lisa travis hospital

Lisa Travis puts on PPE before cleaning ICU room

Both essential workers say they're hoping the community will join in that partnership, staying safe by following coronavirus prevention steps.

With every meal order and room to prep for patients, the pandemic weighs on their minds.

"We don't want to see you in here. Unless you're dropping off flowers for a baby, you know, the happy part of it," Travis said. "Stay safe."

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