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Hospital Celebrates Patients' Victories Over COVID-19 With 'Code Joy'

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

America's hospitals are really stretched thin right now. There are nearly twice as many COVID-19 patients now compared to previous peaks. And that makes it especially important for these hospitals to celebrate victories when people recover and can go home. Yellowstone Public Radio's Nicky Ouellet was there when a hospital in Billings, Mont., had a sendoff for one of their own nurses who beat the virus.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: So they are on the elevator right now.

NICKY OUELLET, BYLINE: Ellen Edlund was hospitalized for about three weeks, including a stint in the ICU on a heart-lung bypass machine. The 20-year veteran registered nurse at Billings Clinic credits her recovery to her colleagues' expertise and an outpouring of community support and care.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

OUELLET: A wheelchair carried her out of the hospital through a tunnel of cheering colleagues as the opening notes of Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" pumped through the hospital speakers. Billings Clinic started doing that recently, calling the practice Code Joy.

ELLEN EDLUND: It takes a village. And because of all of your guys' love and care and support, I'm leaving today.

OUELLET: Edlund, who's 55, says she's an otherwise healthy person. But after her battle with the coronavirus, she's thrilled to be alive.

EDLUND: It tried to kill me. There's really not a lot of explanation why I survived this. And it's a virus. I thought I had the flu. It hit me that hard.

OUELLET: Edlund says many people less ill than she have died from coronavirus. She encourages everyone to take simple steps. Wash your hands. Wear a mask.

EDLUND: It's not taking away your American rights. It's just keeping people safe. And we're going to get through it. But you just need a little more time.

OUELLET: After another week in rehab, Edlund was released last Friday. She says she's excited to be home for Christmas.

EDLUND: I feel pretty darn good for everything that's happened.

OUELLET: After three months of rising steeply, the number of people in Montana hospitalized for COVID-19 has dropped by about half in the last four weeks.

For NPR News, I'm Nicky Ouellet in Billings.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRACE BUNDY'S "ODE TO JOY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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