Front-line fighter

MORGAN (HOFFBECK) LAVOY IS SHOWN IN HER PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator) gear in the COVID unit at the Sanford USD Medical Center. Submitted photo

“Catching Up With …” is a periodic feature of the Tracy Area Headlight Herald and is designed to highlight the exploits of Tracy Area High School graduates. If you have a suggestion of someone you think should be included in this feature, let us know by emailing

By Per Peterson

Simply put, Morgan LaVoy was overwhelmed — physically, emotionally and mentally.

As a health care provider, LaVoy is a member of a special community of people, a group now commonly known as “frontline” workers. And to say the pandemic put this Tracy Area High School graduate to the test in 2020 would be an understatement of epic proportions. Of course, as a nurse, she is as dedicated as they come, but like so many others in the field, surviving the pandemic is about more than punching a time clock. It’s about grappling with very personal issues.

“I started to have nightmares about it,” LaVoy said of her work at Sanford USD Medical Center. “I started to have nightmares where I was the only nurse working in our COVID ICU unit. Every patient was my family member — my mom, dad, husband, Taylor, sister-in-laws, grandparents, aunts, uncles, mother- and father-in-law. They were all on life support, and I was the only one to take care of all of them. During the peak of the pandemic, I maybe had the dream once a week. Now, maybe once a month.”

LaVoy, the daughter of Keith and Carin Hoffbeck, graduated from Tracy Area High School in 2015.

Following graduation, she attended South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. She passed her RN license exam in January 2020 and started working as a registered nurse at Sanford USD Medical Center in February 2020. In October, she started graduate school through the University of North Dakota to pursue her master’s degree in Family Nurse Practitioner. During college, she married her high school sweetheart, Matt LaVoy, who works as a graduate structural engineer at ISG in Sioux Falls, SD. The couple lives in Tea, SD, and are expecting their first child in November.

LaVoy’s introduction to her career was nothing short of a baptism by fire. After her orientation, she went straight to the COVID ICU at Sanford, where she stayed for four straight months. Her patients had extensive oxygen needs and could quickly become very critically ill and need full life support, she said.

“At times, even a very small movement would cause their oxygen levels to drop,” she said. “I knew once one of these patients was on life support they very rarely were able to successfully be weaned off or improve. We tried many different techniques, medications and positions to help these patients breathe better.”

LaVoy said when COVID-19 surged last year, many hospital workers became overwhelmed. It got to the point where they no longer had enough ICU nurses to take care of the number of ICU patients they had. Her hospital developed a surge plan, and ICU nurses would be “buddied” with a nurse from another unit to support and help provide care to these patients, she said. Most of them would come from the PICU (pediatric intensive care), NICU (neonatal intensive care) and OB (labor and delivery). The “buddies” would be assigned to an ICU nurse and assist wherever that ICU nurse needed help.

“They were extremely helpful to have on the unit as we, along with many other parts of the country, experienced extremely high patient volumes,” she said.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.