Home A project of States Newsroom
A grateful COVID survivor returned to Saint Alphonsus, to thank medical team


A grateful COVID survivor returned to Saint Alphonsus, to thank medical team

Nov 10, 2022 | 1:16 pm ET
By Mark Snider
A grateful COVID survivor returned to Saint Alphonsus, to thank medical team
Torena Sauer, a former ICU patient at Saint Al's in Boise, visits the care team who helped her survive COVID-19 when she was hospitalized with a 'breakthrough' infection. (Courtesy of Saint Alphonsus Health System

It’s a trip she’d taken once before. But the second time was different.

Both times, as Torena Sauer made her way down the hallway to the intensive care unit at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, doctors, nurses and medical technicians were waiting for her.

The difference was that, this second time down the hall, she did so on her terms, maneuvering her electric wheelchair instead of being wheeled in on a hospital bed.

A bit more than one year earlier, she had been admitted to the ICU as a COVID-19 patient with pneumonia, struggling to breathe. This time, she was again breathless, but it was from emotion, as she found the words to thank her care team.

Torena returned to the ICU to present the staff with a “Tree of Life” artwork, depicting the silhouette of a large tree.

She has multiple sclerosis and was a COVID “breakthrough” case – she had been fully vaccinated and said she was “doing everything I was told to do” to avoid catching COVID, but got sick anyway.

Her gratitude for the care team was apparent.

“You saved my life. And I want to honor all of you for your hard work, dedication, comforting words and encouragement. Throughout many tears and struggles, I’m here today because of all of you. Thank you all so very much. It just does not seem adequate enough for what you have given back to me. Know you are all appreciated and forever in our hearts,” she told the ICU colleagues.

Andrea Fratusco, director of critical care and emergency services at Saint Alphonsus, accepted the artwork on behalf of the hospital.

“It’s not often we have an opportunity to speak with our patients afterwards and certainly we’re just so grateful that that you’re healthy and you’re here today,” Fratusco said. “And we’re grateful that you would extend such a branch and a bridge to our staff and thank them for their hard work during this challenging time.”

The Tree of Life will hang near the entrance to the Saint Alphonsus ICU, along with a plaque with words of gratitude from Sauer. It will serve as a reminder of how compassion, professionalism and care help the community recover from the most critical diseases.