The temptation looking back on the summer of 2021 - at a time that was like no other in our hospital’s history when the full force of the COVID-19 Delta variant was unleashed on our community and hospital - is to try to forget. It would be easy here to discuss all the difficulty, the fear, anger, exhaustion, and tragedy we faced. We could even debate (argue) the confusing science-but that is not the intent. No, what I would like to share about that historic and unprecedented attack on our community’s health, and hospital by this virus, are the heroes, the selfless heroic moments, and the times that we as an organization met the full intent of our Mission Statement and the community rallied with full support - in our efforts.
I want to speak to the courage, of the nonclinical staff, nurses, therapist, physicians who despite fear, exhaustion, and worry, agreed that it was important to not allow these feelings to influence what they were attempting to do. To remain in the moment, to be compassionate and caring even in the face of sorrow, tragedy and, yes, death. A true hero defined faces their fear head on but continues into the darkness regardless the outcome. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, Darkness can’t be replaced by darkness, only light replaces darkness-and hate can’t replace hate only love can.” I witnessed many - rays of light - illuminating and replacing the darkness - and several expressions of caring love!
I became aware of extraordinary commitments from staff throughout the hospital working long hours to keep our facility clean, our equipment supplied and maintained-no matter the time. I witnessed physicians who could have stayed safe at home but understood the challenge and without regard to self, status, or specialty training said, “I can help!” Surgeons and doctors of anesthesia responding to the crisis in the emergency department, which was by now full beyond capacity, and two-thirds of that capacity full of critically ill patients being sustained on breathing machines. Our inpatient unit full of levels of patient illness that required intense focused care. Our staff rose to meet that need!
I learned of stories of staff - who despite the risk - ensured that no patient was left alone as they relinquished their fight and gave way to God; of a spouse being allowed to hold the hand of their true love as they could no longer hold onto life; of a patient who, fearing for her life infected by the virus, had been reassured, and comforted by a nurse who - unknowingly was singing an old spiritual song that the patient recognized immediately and understood to be a “sign-that God was still in control!” The patient once fully recovered would later return to the hospital with a bouquet of flowers for that nurse - “her angel!”
I felt the support of leaders who led by example - not from their office or home - but here on the front lines - days, nights, and weekends supporting the efforts of the clinicians and healthcare providers trying to do battle against the virus. I sat in on the calls with local authorities, our prehospital partners, and county emergency management teams all with one common mission - beating back the surge with a common voice to protect our community!
I recall the random acts of support from our community business partners of lunches donated and offers of “how can we help, how can we express our gratitude?”
Yes, it was a “Time like no other.” While difficult and tragic, it was also a time of compassion, light, and love!
All heroes, acting selflessly and heroically fulfilling the mission - our Mission!