BROOKFIELD -- The coronavirus pandemic has made things incredibly difficult for those with loves ones who are nearing the end of their lives. A woman from Oak Creek, working as a nurse in Brookfield, is using telemedicine to help hospice patients navigate changes amid COVID-19 -- while facing her own health battle.
Mary Lesjak of Oak Creek started as a nurse 58 years ago, and she's been a hospice nurse with St. Croix Hospice for seven years. She's seen many changes over the years, but this might be the biggest.
"I just love to be with people, and I love to help people," said Lesjak.
That passion has motivated Lesjak since 1962.
"I've always loved nursing," said Lesjak. "It was my first love. I guess it will be my last. That's why I do it."
End of life care is normally very hands-on.
"We have to kind of work together," said Lesjak. "It's a very different way of doing nursing.
Because of COVID-19, nurses like Lesjak are working from home.
"Before, we would go in and assess our patients wherever they were, but it would be a face-to-face, and a touching, and a hugging," said Lesjak.
Amid the pandemic, they're relying on telemedicine. Lesjak speaks with nurses on-site to get vitals, assess patients and provide critical information to families who can't be near their loved ones.
"There's people out there besides them that care, and are checking on their loved ones to make sure their needs are met, and that their medical needs are being taken care of," said Lesjak.
Lesjak said while the job has changed, the care has not, with hospice nurses continuing to bring comfort to patients.
"We give hope," said Lesjak. "Each day, you live to the fullest."
Lesjak is providing this vital care all while battling breast cancer. She says helping others is helping her stay healthy and optimistic.