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Joe Alesch retired in August of 2019 after serving 26 years as a respiratory therapist at INTEGRIS Health. Little did he know he would be called back to duty by a global pandemic.

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Retired Respiratory Therapist Returns to Work After Personal Loss

Joe Alesch retired in August of 2019 after serving 26 years as a respiratory therapist at INTEGRIS Health. He had no way of knowing he would be called back to duty by a global pandemic. Nor did he know he would suffer a personal loss caused by COVID-19.

“Every six weeks, I would go up to Colorado Springs to visit my dad. He lived in a retirement center there,” says Alesch. “I always looked forward to those trips. My dad and I really enjoyed spending time together.”

But in April 2020, he got the call no family wants to receive. “My dad was hospitalized due to COVID-19. I couldn’t visit him until he was moved to Hospice care. They called one morning and said you better come quick.”

Joe’s father, John Parker Alesch, was one of many who contracted the coronavirus at the retirement center. He died on April 14, 2020 at the age of 93.

“A lot of people dismiss his death because of his age saying it’s ok because he lived a long life,” Alesch states. “But I say it’s not ok. My dad was active and social. We still had a lot to do together and COVID cut that short.”

Amidst his grief, Joe Alesch was asked to come back to work to care for patients suffering from the same disease that killed his father. Joe did not hesitate to answer the call.  “I knew they could use my skill set. I had heard how busy they were. My former colleagues and friends had been telling me for months it was like nothing they had ever seen before.”

“It’s amazing how quickly these patients turn,” Alesch continues. “One day your patient will be sitting up and talking, then all the sudden they are gasping for air. It really does happen that quickly.”

Joe receives vaccineJoe is 60 years old, just shy of the age group at the highest risk, but he says he doesn’t fear for his safety. “I feel we are taking all the appropriate precautions and are doing what we were trained to do. I feel an obligation to fight this fight. I do it for my dad.” 

Alesch admits becoming emotional when he received the COVID-19 vaccine. “I cried tears of joy,” he exclaims. “I see the vaccine as the light at the end of the tunnel. The beginning of the end of this horrible disease.”

He encourages everyone to take the vaccine as soon as they are able. He wishes his father would have had that opportunity. If he had, Alesch believes he would still be alive today.

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