Autograph, words of thanks spark emotions in Lone Peak Hospital nurses

Photo: Travis Smith/Lone Peak Hospital

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, July 2, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — I made a couple of nurses cry this week, quite by accident.

It was all about what should have been the simple fulfillment of an autograph request from a Utah nurse to a someone who inspires the state’s stressed and fearful medical workers.

That silent hero is Dr. Angela Dunn.

I was arranging to book Dr. Dunn for an exclusive interview in my podcast on “The Bill Gephardt Show.” Dr. Dunn is the Utah state epidemiologist. She graciously accepted the invitation, and then we talked about all things COVID-19 related, including the role of the hospital and medical professionals.

I also chatted with her about her past, her background, and how she became dedicated to studying and informing others about the spread and control of disease: epidemiology.

Photo: Gephardt Daily/The Bill Gephardt Show podcast

In this pandemic, I know that Dr. Dunn is considered a hero to countless Utah healthcare professionals. She’s the one doctors and nurses, depend on to tell them the truth — the scientific truth — about COVID-19. They say she ignores politics and simply gives them the straight story on what we should be doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Utah.

Photo: Lone Peak Hospital

When I told a nurse I know at Lone Peak Hospital in Draper that I was interviewing Dunn, she became very excited.

“Oh, I would love to have her autograph. I really admire her.” So, I told nurse Suzy Applegarth that I would ask Dr. Dunn for an autograph for the nurses at Lone Peak Hospital, but no promises.

Nurses and doctors at Lone Peak have seen and treated COVID-19 cases. Like their colleagues across the state, they are anxious about the spread of the coronavirus and concerned that their emergency room and intensive care unit will become overcrowded. And they worry how they will deal with a disease that often kills, while risking being exposed themselves and taking the virus home to their families.

Also, doctors think about the non-scientific people who refuse to social distance or refuse to wear mask.

But those who know her work say Dr. Dunn doesn’t fool around with that political stuff, and instead deals with science, and she has become the hero of nurses and doctors in hospitals and clinics across the state. They work those double shifts and face the heartache of watching patients lives end early because of the virus. All of that has nothing to do with politics, from a scientific and medical point of view.

After our interview, I asked Dr. Dunn if she would give her autograph to the nurses at Lone Peak Hospital. She said, “Sure,” laughingly.  “I’ve never done this before, but sure.”

I told Dunn in our interview something she might not know. I told her she is the hero’s voice to these front-line health care workers. “They might be silent to you,” I told her, “but they hang on every word you say at those daily news conferences about truth and science, the way they’ve been trained.”

I told Dr. Dunn she might imagine that she is just herself, and no big deal. But really, I said, she is the voice for sometimes frightened and anxious nurses and doctors worried about the near future and keeping people alive.

Photo: Bill delivers on a special request from Lone Peak nurse Suzy Applegarth. Photo: Travis Smith/Lone Peak Hospital
What I wound up delivering to nurse Suzy Applegate was much more than just an autograph.
In a plastic bag, Dr. Dunn placed a thank-you note.
Photo: Travis Smith/Lone Peak Hospital
The writing on the outside of the envelope simply said:
To Lone Peak nurses,
You are making a difference saving lives, protecting the health of Utahns.
Thank you,
Dr. Angela Dunn.
Photo: Travis Smith/Lone Peak Hospital

Inside the thank-you note, Dr. Dunn wrote:

Dear Lone Peak nurses,

Thank you for your relentless dedication to caring for our patients, especially during these trying times.  You are honestly the true heroes.  We are working hard to protect you.  
Thank you for being on our team.
Dr. Angela Dunn
Dunn sent along a face mask, with her signature in gold.
Photo: Travis Smith/Lone Peak Hospital
The nurses all read the outside of the card, and then what was inside the card. They laughed and smiled beneath their masks as they held the autographed face mask.
Photo: Travis Smith/Lone Peak Hospital

Caught in the moment, and genuinely struck by Dunn’s gesture, Suzi fought to hold back a tear. She then quickly regained her composure.

“After all,” she said “you’re not supposed to touch your face.”

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