Saluting Local Health Care Workers on the Frontlines Fighting COVID-19

Photography Provided

westfield health careRemember the days when the notion of shaking hands with a rock-n-roll star or rubbing elbows with an NBA player made your heart aflutter? Remember the way your children watched superhero movies with their eyes wide and their mouths agape as they sat, mesmerized, at the notion of being able to fly, deflect bullets and neutralize the bad guys? Remember the times you had a random encounter with an A-list Hollywood actress at an airport or a legendary musician while vacationing in an exotic location? We remember such encounters because we, as a society, have elevated Hollywood superstars, sports icons, music legends and fictitious comic book characters as heroes in our minds.

It wasn’t until this spring when an insidious, highly contagious disease swiftly and jarringly upended our routines, our lives, our families and our world that our definition of “hero” was sharply redefined. Suddenly we looked to doctors, nurses, hospital staff, first responders and emergency personnel with fresh eyes of gratitude and a renewed sense of awe as we recognized the grand and personal sacrifices they were making, daily, for the sake of their communities.

We are grateful to our hometown heroes in a way that perhaps we never have been in our lifetime because we know the blood, sweat and tears that these men and women have shed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept through our country, leaving confusion, uncertainly, and blind fear in its wake. As schools, churches, restaurants, hair salons, gyms, movie theaters, shopping malls and other businesses shut down, those on the frontlines never stopped working. In fact, many put in overtime, both physically and mentally, to ensure the safety of their fellow man.

This strange and surreal experience has brought many lessons, the greatest of which is that we have heroes living among us. And for that, we are all eternally grateful. Therefore, we wanted to take this opportunity to thank these beautiful people for their ceaseless sacrifice, unwavering commitment to serve and boundless love of humankind.

Jill McKinney, Director of Emergency Services, Critical Care Services, & School Nursing, has been touched by the response and respect frontline staff have received in recent weeks. They’ve gotten thank-you cards, flowers, meals and positive postings on social media.

“Patients we are seeing in the ER and ICU express their gratitude for the work we are doing every day,” says McKinney, noting that from a nurse’s perspective, they feel duty-bound to heed their calling.

“This is what we do. We have lived through pandemics — none that have affected the country like this, obviously, [but] it’s not uncommon for new diseases to present themselves in health care. We saw it with H1N1, Ebola and HIV,” McKinney says. “We are trained to care for everyone in any situation. We protect ourselves and our families to the best of our ability while providing compassionate care to our patients and their families.” 

According to McKinney, Riverview Health engaged in an impressive organization-wide effort to come together and prepare for this pandemic. They did so by planning for needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for surges and the loss of staff due to quarantining procedures. In addition, the support from all department leaders and staff has been unprecedented.

westfield health care“It’s like nothing I’ve ever witnessed,” McKinney says. “Every department has been impacted by the needs and changes that occur daily, and each and every department has stepped up to the plate. We have surgery nurses working in ICU, ER nurses working in the ICU. We opened up extra ICU beds. It really has been phenomenal how everyone has risen to the occasion.”

Donetta Gee-Weiler, RN, MBA-MSN, Hospital Administrator and Chief Nursing Officer for Community Heart and Vascular Hospital, has worked for Community Health Network for 25 years and says she’s always known it was a special place. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that point as teamwork has taken on a new meaning.

“Caregivers are moving from areas that are no longer open to help support areas of greater need. This means learning new roles, moving to a new site of care and even changing shifts,” Gee-Weiler says. “During such a time of uncertainty, our team is adjusting to make sure we continue to deliver the best possible care to those in need.”

Nevertheless, this is the field these men and women have chosen, and they feel driven to step up and care for humanity just as they always have.

“I view the role of the caregiver as something that cannot be replaced,” says Gee-Weiler, noting that they are welcomed into their patients’ lives during the best moments (e.g., the birth of a baby, cure from disease) and worst moments (e.g., terminal diagnosis, loss of a loved one).

“We are part of the family’s story as these memories are some they carry with them for the remainder of their life,” Gee-Weiler adds. “Now I think the community is finally seeing just how much these moments also mean to us. We are showing that health care is truly a career of passion to help others, regardless of the need.”

health careDr. William Harvey, pulmonary critical care specialist and medical director of the ICU at IU Health North Hospital, has been practicing critical care medicine for two decades. As medical director of the ICU, he provides calm reassurance to the nursing staff and communicates with administration to ask for and receive the necessary resources to treat patients.

“Although there is more stress and longer hours than usual, I feel very blessed that I have been trained to do this job and that I have an opportunity to help the citizens of Hamilton County,” says Harvey, who is thankful to the Hamilton County residents for their sacrifices. “We will get through this time. It will not last forever. Fortunately, at IU Health we have the resources, the manpower and the will to respond to this crisis and ultimately defeat the virus.” 

And as we set our hearts and minds to do just that, kindness and compassion prevails.

“I’m completely blown away by the amount of kindness in the world. People have really come together to care for others as well as solve the problems this situation has caused,” says Westfield Police Officer Broc Larrison. “The ability of individuals and companies to pivot in a matter of weeks to confront something they probably have given little thought to has been amazing. It’s incredible what we can achieve when everyone works together. I hope it’s something that we continue to practice as we move out of the pandemic.” 

When every day brings a new series of harrowing headlines, it can be easy to slip into sadness or flounder in fear. But I assure you, there is a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to this army of men and women as they are the heartbeat of hope that now, always has, and always will work tirelessly to relieve pain, save lives and restore health. These individuals dedicate their lives to helping us, as a society, live our best lives. Because as the saying goes, “When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters.”

Thank you to all our health care heroes for what you do each day!

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