Inside COVID's Siege

A Des Moines Register series based at Mary Greeley Medical Center.

In November 2020, Mary Greeley Medical Center was asked to allow a Des Moines Register reporter and photojournalist to embed on units where we were treating COVID-19 patients. To our knowledge, no other hospital in Iowa had done anything like this. After much discussion, we opted to allow reporter Courtney Crowder and photojournalist Zach Boyden-Holmes to spend a week at Mary Greeley, primarily in the ICU and on our 6th-floor COVID-19 unit. The result was a thoughtfully written, beautifully photographed, and deeply moving seven-part series called “Inside COVID’s Siege.” The series ran from January through early March 2021 and each story was based at Mary Greeley.

The series is a testament to the value of compassion, the strength of families, and the power of resilience. We are proud share each story here.


Dr. Tamim Mahayni talks with COVID-19 patient Thong Sengphirom after her transfer to the ICU at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames, Iowa, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.

'Inside COVID's Siege'

‘Inside COVID’s Siege’ series takes readers inside an Iowa hospital as doctors, nurses fight a plague

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Nurse Connor Ramirez, respiratory therapist Kristin Hofland and nurse Julie Scebold work to transfer COVID-19 patient Thong Sengphirom to the ICU at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames, Iowa, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.

Fighting for Every Life in Iowa

For nearly a year, Iowa’s doctors and nurses have fought to save every COVID-19 patient. They fear surge, but charge forward.

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Jade Robinson embraces her mother, Thong Sengphirom, as she is treated for COVID-19 in the ICU at Mary Greeley on Dec. 10. As she leans in, her
mother reflexively reaches up to touch her and hits her face shield instead.

'Just Keep Fighting'

As Thong Sengphirom fights the coronavirus, her family gathers digitally and at her side, making tough decisions from across the internet.

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Mary Embrey stands for a photo at Webster City Middle School after a day of teaching Wednesday, Feb. 3.

'Everything's A Gift Now'

How an Iowa teacher is grappling with COVID-19 survivor's guilt.

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Sherry Weitzel cleans the floor of COVID-19 patient Jan Beeghly’s room on Dec. 9, 2020, at Mary Greeley. Weitzel showers as soon as she gets home and keeps her shoes in the garage, frightened that her dogs might lick the treads, then swipe her family’s hands or faces.

'Hidden Heroes'

Hospital housekeepers on the front line battle COVID-19 with mops and wipes.

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Amanda Baetsle’s shift was over. But Louis Luiken was fading faster than his family could get to the hospital. So she gowned up and grabbed a phone.

'I couldn't be pulled away'

Young nurses hold phones and hands on an Iowa COVID-19 floor.

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Birthways nurse Cherish Shuka had never been in the room for a stillborn delivery, but agreed when asked to offer grieving families stillbirth photography.

'We're Not Alone In This'

Amid pandemic, nurse helps grieving families cherish memories in Iowa maternity ward.

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Infectious disease specialist Dr. Dan Fulton holds the hand of a COVID-19 patient as they talk in the ICU at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames on Dec. 16.

'We're Not Giving Up'

An Iowa hopsital staff finds the best way to battle COVID-19 lies within themselves.

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