GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — Every day Ellie Reichstein leaves for work, she worries about not being able to come home to her family.
"I have a 1-year-old at home, and so, it has definitely been every single day thinking, 'OK, I can make it this morning, and am I going to make it home this afternoon?'" Reichstein said.
Reichstein is the director of acute and critical care at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. Her usual drive from Eagle to work takes about 40 minutes, but now, it has drastically increased.
"It takes me about an hour and 45 minutes one way," Reichstein said.
Many of her own employees are facing a similar impact.
"I have 117 employees who work for me, and several of them are in the same boat as me where we are living on this side of the canyon and commuting every single day," Reichstein said.
The closure of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon has impacted more than the hospital’s staff. It has put patients who need to access critical care in a tricky situation and put a strain on the hospital’s supply chain.
"We have vital medical supplies that need to get to the hospital that are required for caring for our patients, and our vendor partners are doing all that they can to navigate the detour and creatively approach how they get supplies to us," said chief community relations officer with Valley View Hospital Stacey Gavrell.
Gavrell says private pilots have also lent a helping hand.
"Some of the pilots have not only volunteered their time, but their aircraft to fly over some of our frontline health care workers who have had to get to the hospital here in Glenwood Springs for their shifts," Gavrell said.
It's a creative way to get through a difficult time. But the question is how long can this be sustained?
"The point of no return is going to be when the weather comes, right? It is only August now, which is beautiful for us, but Cottonwood Pass is not a road that will be able to be maintained through the winter," Reichstein said.
For now, the unpredictable Cottonwood Pass serves as a lifeline for many health workers while I-70 remains closed through Glenwood Canyon. The sooner long-term repairs can be made to I-70, the better.
"It is something that I definitely think about every single day on my commute," Reichstein said.