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Banner Health North Colorado Medical Center ICU staff recognized with lifesaving award

Banner Health's NCMC staff recognized for life-saving efforts
Banner Health's NCMC staff recognized for life-saving efforts 02:37

After three years of combating the COVID-19 pandemic on the front lines in northern Colorado, the ICU staff at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley has been recognized with the American Red Cross's Life Saving Organization Hero of the Year award. The team was recognized at a banquet in Denver on Saturday night. 

"We don't do this job for praise. We do it because we want people to get better and go home to their families," said Abby Kissler, one of the medical staff members at NCMC. 

Banner Health

"We do it because we care about people," said Bree Phillips, one of the award recipients.  

The team from Greeley was nominated for the award by Jose Graciano and his wife. CBS News Colorado first introduced the public to the Gracianos in 2022 after Jose miraculously survived months in a coma battling COVID-19. The staff spent every day by Graciano's side, as did his wife.

Though he woke up after three months, Graciano eventually needed a double lung transplant in order to survive outside of the hospital.  

For their continuous attention to Graciano and their ability to save his life, the team at Banner Health's NCMC was awarded the lifesaving recognition.  

"It's like putting a red bow on our COVID scars. It was healing," said Jen Lengel, an award recipient.  

"Jose and Anita were our heroes," said Rachel McDaniels, a nurse.  


"They saved us as much as we saved them," Kissler said.  

At the awards event Armando Silva, an artist who happened to be from Greeley as well, was commissioned to create a piece of art. He chose to do a painting that depicted two hands making the shape of a heart.  

He completed the painting without knowledge that days before the awards event Graciano and his wife took a picture together to give to the NCMC staff. In the photo, Graciano is standing shirtless, showing his scar from the double lung transplant. And, over his scar his wife is holding her hands together making a heart.  

"They were like, 'Did you know we just took this picture a couple of days ago?' They showed me the picture on the phone and I immediately got goosebumps," Silva, who goes by Artmando in the art scene, said.  

Some called it coincidence, others called it fate.  

"There is no other explanation than God has had his hand in it," McDaniels said.  

What was clear was the painting, which was being auctioned at the event, was destined to be on display at the hospital in Greeley.  

Banner Health COO Wendy Sparks purchased the painting and brought it to the ICU floor at NCMC where Graciano lived for many months. The painting was hung at the entrance to the unit where patients, guests and most importantly staff will see it every day.  


"I hope this is just a small reminder of the great work that they do," Sparks said.  

"I hope that as the staff walks into the unit every day they see that and remember why we do what we do," said Sarah Schneider of Banner Health.  

McDaniels said the painting will always remind them of their hard work to save lives during the pandemic, but nothing will be more rewarding than knowing Graciano was able to go home to live life with his family for many years to come.  

"As much of an honor as these (awards) are, it doesn't compare to him living, breathing and loving his family the way he does," McDaniels said.  

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