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Family thankful for care NUMC provided for COVID-19 survivor Betty Kohlhepp

Photo courtesy of Paulette Anderson Betty Kohlhepp is welcomed back home by her husband, Ken, after her hospitalization and recovery from COVID-19 recently. Her family credits the care and attention from the NUMC frontline workers for her recovery.

NEW ULM — Frontline medical workers are facing an unprecedented challenge with the COVID-19 pandemic and for the family of Betty Kohlhepp of New Ulm, doctors and nurses went above and beyond.

Paulette Anderson of Edina wants to thank all the local frontline workers for the excellent work they did in taking care of her 89-year-old mother, Betty Kohlhepp.

In October, Kohlhepp contracted COVID and was hospitalized for two weeks. Fortunately, through the care of frontline workers at New Ulm Medical Center1, she made a recovery and is back home with her husband Ken Kohlhepp.

Kohlhepp found out she had the virus after seeking treatment for another illness. Anderson said when her mother was not improving she suggested NUMC do a COVID test to check.

Kohlhepp did not have any symptoms at the time she tested positive. Since she lived with her 92-year-old husband Ken at Ridgeway senior living center, he also tested positive but remained asymptomatic throughout the ordeal. Betty Kohlhepp’s symptoms worsened after the test.

NUMC photo by Sarah Warmka Members of the Medical Surgical department at New Ulm Medical Center who helped care for Betty Kohlhepp are pictured above. Left to right are: Joe Smith, RN; Lynette Holm, RN; Shelly Lamecker, RN; Cindy Jensen, LPN (seated); Ashley Wieseler, RN and Jessica Henderson, RN.

At first, Kohlhepp did not have any of the regular COVID symptoms but was confused and disoriented. She has almost no memory of her week spent at New Ulm Medical Center. Later she developed shortness of breath and was given oxygen.

The week Kohlhepp spent at NUMC was the worst for the family. Anderson and her father were not able to visit with her in person because of a possible infection. The family was limited to phone calls, but because of Kohlhepp’s disorientation, many of the conversations were one-sided.

“I can’t tell you how scary it was,” Anderson said. “I couldn’t go there and could not be there for my dad.”

The Kohlhepp family was forced to put their trust in the frontline medical workers and Anderson said that faith was justified.

Anderson was impressed with how much front line staff sacrificed to accommodate her family in the time of need.

“They would get suited up in full gowns just to set up a phone call between my mom and me,” she said.

In the week her mother was at NUMC, Anderson called many times to check up on her status and speak with her mom, and NUMC was accommodating. Staff believed receiving calls from family helps patients and this may have saved Kohlhepp’s life.

One night, NUMC called Anderson to let her know her mom took a turn for the worse and wanted her to have the last chance to speak with her.

“I thought this was it,” Anderson said. It was the last chance for her to speak with her mom. Unfortunately, Kohlhepp was still having trouble answering her daughter, but did manage to say “I love you.”

The next day, Kohlhepp’s health turned around and she started to improve. She was able to eat on her own and started regaining strength.

“Call it what you want but my family calls it a miracle and love of family,” Anderson said. “She didn’t want to leave my dad yet. They have been married for 70 years.”

Betty was transferred to a swing bed in Sleepy Eye that was set up specifically for COVID patients. She continued to improve there and after a week, was able to return to Ridgeway and reunited with her husband.

“My mom reuniting with my dad was of the sweetest moments I’ve ever seen,” Anderson said.

Anderson said she feels blessed that her family’s story has a happy ending, especially when many have not. She credits the love and care of frontline workers for helping her mom come home.

“They treated my mom like she was the only patient,” she said.

Anderson was thankful for all the frontline workers who helped her mom, from the staff at NUMC and Sleepy Eye hospital, to the staff at Ridgeway Living Center.

Anderson said the Ridgeway Living Center did an excellent job of protecting her parents. The facility was proactive in protecting residents from the start of the pandemic back in March. It was over seven months before the virus directly impacted long-term care facilities.

Anderson and her family wanted to publicly thank front line workers for the excellent care they gave her mother.

“They were like angels,” she said. “They went above and beyond.”

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