CORONAVIRUS

A Cedar Rapids nurse's calling is on the coronavirus floor

Lia Basemann among the front-line heroes

Lia Basemann is an registered nurse at UnityPoint St. Luke's Hospital, working on the COVID-19 floor. Photographed Tuesd
Lia Basemann is an registered nurse at UnityPoint St. Luke’s Hospital, working on the COVID-19 floor. Photographed Tuesday in Cedar Rapids after Basemann finished a shift at the hospital. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — She admits she has been reflecting a lot about it recently. As she sits at home alone, intentionally isolated from her friends, her family, her fiancee, their dog.

Lia Basemann is a 25-year-old registered nurse at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospitals, just three years into her career. She has a wedding coming up in the fall, her whole adult life still ahead.

Yet she volunteered to move from the cardiology department at the hospital to the fifth floor, where St. Luke’s is putting its COVID-19 patients. It’s her second week there.

“I just told my boss I need to be doing something. I can’t just sit at home, I have to be helping,” Basemann said. “I was going to cross train for the emergency room and to respiratory therapy because those have been very busy, obviously. Then they decided to open this floor for strictly COVID-19 patients. My boss asked me if I would want to go up there. Kind of without even really thinking about it, I just said ‘Yeah. I’m in.’”

She’s had time to think about it now. Why did she decide to put herself at risk and be separated from those she loves for the foreseeable future?

She’s not the only one, by the way. There are many others.

“All my co-workers are giving up equally as much,” Basemann said. “Some of them have kids at home and take care of their parents and grandparents.”

They do it because they are in health care; they are nurses. It’s just what they do. They’re heroes of this pandemic.

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“Unfortunately, with our restrictions right now, family cannot be with their loved ones” on the fifth floor, Basemann said. “It’s unreal to me that if my loved one is so sick and could possibly be dying and is a on ventilator to breathe for them, that they can’t be there.

“So I can’t sit at home knowing dang well that I could be there helping someone, even if it’s just, like, sitting and having a conversation. Just being someone to help in this pandemic. I have the resources, the knowledge to do it. So there is no reason I should be sitting at home not helping when I can be helping.”

Basemann is a Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School and Mount Mercy University graduate.

She already has seen a lot in her short time on the fifth floor. When people get sick with coronavirus, it usually hits them fast, she said.

She does what she can to not obsess about the dangers of being around highly contagious patients. That does no good.

“Of course, my friends, family and loved ones are very concerned, and I appreciate them for it,” she said. “I just see it as my job. Kind of like when a soldier goes into battle, they’re not really thinking of themselves, they are thinking about everyone else. I feel safe, I have the proper mask, so that makes me feel better. We are doing everything we can, and St. Luke’s is really giving us every option to feel safe.”

But it’s hard. Basemann insisted her fiancee, Shelby Dickes, move out of their Cedar Rapids home so she wouldn’t be potentially exposed.

Basemann’s parents, Jim and LuAnn, have taken Dickes into their home here in town. No questions asked.

The texts, phone calls, video calls come every part of the day. They all played a card game together, yet apart, on Zoom the other day.

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“They’re great,” she said of her parents. “I’m going to get emotional about them. The biggest thing is I would lose myself if something happened to them. Knowing how selfless they are to be like ‘Yeah, just come on over and live here.’ To take her in, that is just so awesome. It’s a good feeling.

“It sucks knowing that I’m doing everything I can for them, and, in turn, it’s causing, not really stress, but stress on (her and Dickes’) relationship because we are not with each other. We used to be long distance: I lived here and she lived in Ames. Now we are long distance, but only five minutes away. That is really strange. You don’t come home to that support, you come home to an empty house. That is hard after a tough day with tough patients.”

Basemann did gain a roommate earlier this week. Another RN who has volunteered to work on the fifth floor is with her, moving out of her place so she can keep her loved ones safe.

They currently are scheduled to work in the COVID-19 area through the end of April, though Basemann knows it’ll be longer than that. She’s proud of the 30 nurses working on the fifth floor, as well as the dozen or so medical techs.

“I’m ready for it to be back to normal,” she said. “Ready to go back to my comfort zone, my home floor, the cardiology floor. But, at the same time, it’s really fun and exciting to put myself in these challenging situations. Just learning from the experience and seeing everyone come together. We’re basically a floor of misfits that came together from every unit and have made our own team. It is really cool to see that.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.