By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Twin Cities nurse will work her last shift of 2020 on Christmas Day so she can take care of health issues of her own.

Rachael Grayden is scheduled for her fourth open heart surgery in early January.

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She’s an emergency room nurse at M Health Fairview Southdale in Edina who’s been on the front lines of the COVID fight all year.

“To be honest, we’re getting tired and exhausted of people literally coming in to see us to die in the ER,” Grayden said.

Grayden was born with heart problems that necessitated three open heart surgeries during her childhood.

“My heart has started becoming a little weaker over the last few years…and things were sped up a little bit, so I needed [this surgery] a little quicker,” she said.

Grayden says her congenital heart problems make COVID more of a risk for her, which can make going into work scary on some days.

This holiday season she’s reflecting on what she’s thankful for in a tumultuous year, while also looking to the future.

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The surgery’s three-month recovery period is on her mind too.

“It’s hard,” Grayden said. “I feel so guilty as a nurse to be away from caring for people at the time of such need.”

Keeping with her selfless nature, Grayden has a holiday message for Minnesotans.

“We’re all going to get through this,” she said. “It may take a while before things look like normal again, but as long as we’re kind and take care of each other, we’ll be there.”

Grayden is waiting until after her surgery to get the vaccine, which she’s looking forward to.

She urges everyone to stick to small gatherings during the holidays because she’s concerned a COVID surge will leave her without an ICU bed for her surgery.

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David Schuman