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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

COVID-19 survivor forms special bond with nurse aide

December 30, 2020

Arthur “Gary” West is one of the fortunate ones – he survived COVID-19. He isn’t mincing any words. “It was a helluva battle.”

On Dec. 29, Gary, 74, walked out of Madonna’s Lincoln Campus – marking a 100 day battle against the coronavirus.

After contracting COVID-19 in October, Gary spent a month recovering at CHI St. Elizabeth before admitting to Madonna’s Specialty Hospital, where he fit the criteria for complex patient care.  It was there Gary connected with Michaela Aulner, nurse aide.

 “Michaela was such a bright spot in my life at a difficult time,” Gary said. Their bond was formed during casual discussions as she checked in on Gary during her routine roundings.

“You don’t know how many times I wanted to give up,” Gary said. Support from his family and friends – in the form of phone calls, virtual meetings and an avalanche of cards, kept him going. And then a gift was delivered one night – a shaving kit – with a heartfelt note.

“I felt the Lord prompting me to do something generous for Gary, so I went to Target and bought the shaving kit and dropped it off at the front desk with my note,” Michaela said. “Gary’s razor wasn’t working the best and I remember how my grandpa liked to be clean shaven.”

Michaela’s grandpa died of COVID-19 right before Thanksgiving and his name was Arthur, too. Gary embodies some of the same characteristics as her grandpa – kind, funny, genuine. “I wanted to care for Gary as much as I would my own grandfather.”

After a month, Gary grew stronger and moved to acute rehabilitation. “You can’t put a figure on how much all the nursing staff meant to me.” But one in particular stands out and she came to visit before he discharged to home. “Madonna is fortunate to have someone like you on staff,” Gary said, smiling through tears.

“I am honored to be part of your journey,” Michaela said. “And we’re all so proud of how far you’ve come!”