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CHICAGO — Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital front line workers have often found themselves doubling as a caregiver and family member, all while caring for patients in the ICU.

At Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a very special bond has developed between some members of the medical team and their patients. Both parties have offered care and support to each other as they all go through different and difficult times.

Patient Colette Hurd and her ICU medical team are Chicago’s Very Own.

“It’s been kind of a sad place for a while, it’s a very heavy feeling down here,” ICU occupational therapist Kari Brouwer said.

Brouwer said working in the ICU for the last 18 months has been both physically and mentally challenging. That was all alleviated when she met patient Colette Hurd.

She said it was Hurd’s upbeat personality and motivation that gave Brouwer and others working in the ICU a glimmer of hope.

“It’s definitely been a reminder of what we’re doing here and why we’re all here and working so hard,” Brouwer said.

In December 2020, 57-year-old Colette Hurd was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, a rare disease and not COVID-19.

Last May, Hurd was admitted to Northwestern Hospital and is now in the ICU awaiting a double lung and kidney transplant.

Hurd doesn’t spend much time dwelling on her lengthy hospital stay, as she’s much too busy focusing on lifting the spirits of her medical team.

For nearly five months, Hurd has witnessed the everyday pandemic anxiety and sadness that surrounds the ICU staff.

“Yeah I know they go through COVID, but just a little sunshine in their day, you know,” Hurd said.

While most patients in the ICU are too ill to strike up a conversation, Hurd takes an active interest in their lives.

“I just talk, I ask them how they’re doing,” Hurd said.

For physical therapist Megan Burwell, she’s a breath of fresh air.

“I feel like she is just as invested in us as we are in taking care of her, and from that it’s like our little family,” Burwell said.

Like family, the Hurd’s medical team, along with her nurse Carey McGarvey arranged a secret vow renewal for Hurd’s 20th wedding anniversary this past August.

“I wanted to create a memory that wouldn’t revolve around the hospital,” Colette’s husband Dennis Hurd said.

With a vail and bridal robe from her husband and her therapist and nurse as matrons of honor, the two exchanged vows in the hospital chapel.

Hurd said she views herself as the big sister of her medical team, but admits she does have the occasional bad day.

“When I have a bad day, the nurses went out to tell me how strong I was,” Hurd said.

Hurd and her team said they plan to keep in touch long after Hurd heads home to heal, but they are all grateful for their newfound friendship as they struggle through a difficult time in life.

“She’s such a bright light. She’s a butterfly, she’s a one of a kind,” Brouwer said.