Almost one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, two metro area health care workers on the frontlines truly exemplify what’s at stake in this global health crisis – and what’s worth fighting for. In early 2019, Kaitlyn (née Dinino) and Steve Sekulski looked forward to their wedding day in April. Today, they reflect on the tough choices they faced in the months that followed and what drove their decision to completely alter the best day of their lives.
“The very beginning was emotionally, physically and mentally draining,” Kaitlyn Sekulski says. “I struggled because there were a lot of unknowns.” She says she felt fortunate to have her fiancé alongside her – someone who also experienced the daily struggle to slow the spread of and save those afflicted by the deadly virus.
“At the start of the pandemic, I was one of the therapists who started [providing care for COVID-19 patients],” Steve Sekulski says. “I volunteered. Everyone was rotating up here. There was never one person on the floor, every day. I took pride in being that team member to fill that role.”
Kaitlyn Sekulski is a registered nurse, and Steve Sekulski is a physical therapist at BJC HealthCare’s Missouri Baptist Medical Center, where they must “gown up – put on an N95 mask, face shield, hairnet, gown, bootie covers,” Kaitlyn Sekulski says, before going into any room. The hospital keeps a small ratio of up to four patients per nurse to avoid rapid deterioration in patients as oxygen needs increase.
During the first and second surges, Steve Sekulski reports that he and his five-member team of therapists took care of 70 to 80 patients. “Our goals are to get somebody up and moving [and] stronger, and get them home with family, or get them safely to a nursing facility to continue rehab,” he explains.
As the couple continued to face this global health crisis, their Chicago wedding approached, with an expected guest list of 130 and every detail already planned. But the month prior to their April date, Kaitlyn Sekulski knew upending those plans was the right call.
Putting their work on the frontlines first, delaying their date and pivoting for the safety of their family and friends, the couple reworked every plan they had previously made. Their eventual June 26 nuptials included 30 guests, most of whom were health care colleagues. A Facebook Live stream of the event encouraged others to join the celebration from afar, including Steve’s 100-year-old grandmother.
“It turns out, the wedding I had was the wedding I needed,” Kaitlyn Sekulski says. “I was able to enjoy every minute. It was about me and Steve. I wouldn’t take back what we had because [it was] such an awesome day.”
“Once we got past that initial shock, it was easy to put the wedding on the back burner and focus on this pandemic,” Steve Sekulski adds. “We all need to continue to do our part. We’ve seen many families broken apart. Tell your loved ones how much you appreciate them, [and] ride this thing out. The vaccine is here, and we are all for it.”