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May we have a word? Local healthcare workers share their feelings as the pandemic continues to take a toll

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By all accounts, this year has been a trying one.

Because of a pandemic that continues to tear through communities across America, many are missing loved one and friends. Over 100 Floyd County residents are gone and that many are currently in the hospital for one and one reason only — COVID-19.

What we’ve known from the beginning is that the disease caused by the new coronavirus preys on the aged and medically fragile. More often than not it has proven again and again to be the case.

What we often don’t see and don’t realize is that there are so many people who are affected by this disease who aren’t infected with the disease. Healthcare workers, nurses, doctors, chaplains and so many others have had to pick themselves up and work even after seeing a patient pass on.

December has been the deadliest month in Floyd County to date, accounting for over a fourth of the deaths we’ve seen. That’s been in large part because of gatherings over previous holidays when we’ve chosen to ignore safety precautions.

The toll it has taken on healthcare workers who deal directly with those infected by the pandemic can’t easily be broken down into words. But when exhausted and grieving you have to try.

They’re hoping these words will reach us. They’re hoping these words will encourage us all to make the smallest of sacrifices in order to honor the sacrifices they’ve been making every day for the past 10 months.

“These images represent how much our front line workers have sacrificed in service to our community throughout this pandemic — working long hours, taking extra shifts, having tough conversations, and caring for your loved ones. Until we get through this pandemic, we should be inspired to sacrifice alongside them – continue to wear masks, avoid large gatherings, and watch our distance.”

Dr. Ed McBride, Harbin Clinic Chief Medical Officer

“I’ve had the opportunity to witness many firsts over the past 10 months. The first COVID diagnosis in the region, the first delivery of plasma, the first antibody treatment and the first regional vaccine delivery. What I’ll keep with me, though, is the resilience of our patients afflicted with COVID, the strength of their families, and the courage of the caregivers I work with. COVID hit us hard in 2020, but in 2021, we’re going to hit COVID back even harder.”

Dr. Dan Valancius, Medical Director of Floyd’s Hospitalist Program

“Since March, I have primarily been designated in our COVID ICU. I want those outside of the hospital to understand how hard we continue to work, but how discouraged we feel when those who are healthy ignore steps to prevent spreading COVID-19. We have been watching the numbers increase. The public doesn’t see the inside of an ICU to know what it’s REALLY like. Those numbers reported represent someone’s mother, father, sibling, spouse, etc... We LIVE it, side by side with our patients, every single day. I have been a bedside nurse a little over 10 years and have never experienced anything as horrible as COVID-19 and the toll it takes on patients struggling to breathe. I have held someone’s hand, standing in as a family member who isn’t allowed to visit, while they cry FaceTiming their loved ones. My heart is broken for all of those who know this first hand. I want the public to know how RESILIENT we are as a healthcare team and that we will always fight for our patients. Please, we cannot beg our community enough — know the facts, stay safe, take precautions, and get the vaccine when it’s available for you. PLEASE be resilient with us!”

Alison Douglas, RN Redmond Regional Medical Center COVID-19 Critical Care Unit

“I think if more people could really understand what we’re experiencing daily, they would realize that we need help. We’re giving 110% each and every day, and I think most every healthcare worker would say they need everyone else to do the same. Wear your mask, social distance, wash your hands and avoid large gatherings.”

Dr. Jennifer Barbieri, Harbin Clinic Pulmonologist

“This year has been different than any I have experienced in my more than 30 years of practice. I am physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted at the end of each day. Wearing the N95 mask makes breathing difficult and wearing it for prolonged periods has been draining. Compared to those, wearing a simple face mask seems like wearing pajamas. I want to encourage everyone to wear a mask to protect each other, it’s the least we can do.”

Dr. Robert Holcombe, Floyd Urgent Care Physician

“I know others have probably said it, but even as an emergency room doctor, I’ve never seen anything like this in my career. Even still, I have truly been inspired at the resilience and compassion of our physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and supporting staff during these extremely difficult times”

Dr. Ken Jones, Floyd Chief Medical Officer

“I’ve been a respiratory therapist for 22 years and have never witnessed anything like this in my career. We are dedicated to providing the best care we can for all of our patients. But we need the public to help us. Please wear a mask. Even if you are healthy, wear a mask to protect those you love so that they don’t get sick and become one of the many we’ve placed on ventilators.”

Stacey Leonard, Redmond Respiratory Therapist

“We’ve never seen a disease like this, and there have never been so many losses. But this vaccine is a chance to save lives and really get COVID-19 under control. This is our shot to protect our patients, our doctors, our healthcare workers, and our family and friends. Let us be optimistic.”

Dr. Gregory Harris, Harbin Clinic Medical Oncologist

“In 21 years of nursing, I’ve never seen anything like where we are right now. I have never seen a group of people so sick. Our hospitals are taxed, our beds are full and we need everyone to help slow this before our health system can no longer manage.”

Chad Taylor, Director of Floyd’s Emergency Care Center

“We’re all tired and frustrated with this disease, but there is promise in a vaccine. We are hopeful, but we have a long way to go. Continue to follow the necessary safety precautions, and trust that the vaccine is safe and effective.”

Dr. John Hostetler, Harbin Clinic Infectious Disease & Travel Medicine

“My husband Chris is a paramedic at Floyd. It’s very scary when he leaves every day because I don’t know what he will be walking into. It’s gone from, ‘Have a good day, I love you,’ to, ‘Please be safe. I love you most.’ I am very proud of him and all the Floyd Team I work with.”

Lisa Gilbert, Unit Secretary in Floyd’s Emergency Care Center

“I’ve seen such selflessness and strength in our emergency care nurses, even as they see sickness at a heart-breaking intensity. They give their all every day while fighting a pandemic we never imagined.”

Mary Ryan, Floyd Nurse Technician

“2020 has shown me how powerfully we are drawn to connect and relate to one another in purpose and principle. Togetherness is a force that can lift us out of grief and discouragement, guide us through the weeds of conflict, forge new understandings, propel us beyond expectations, and sustain us through another day of healing. Together we are truly at our best.”

Dr. Anne Cowan, Medical Director of Floyd’s Preoperative Evaluation Center

“As we hear this message from the front line, I’m overcome with gratitude. They have gone to tremendous lengths to care for those who are sick and suffering. I am so grateful, but I’m also worried. I’m worried that our number of hospitalizations continues to grow, and I’m worried that as a community we aren’t doing our part to help lessen their burden.”

Kenna Stock, Harbin Clinic CEO

“I’m excited because this is the beginning of the end of the pandemic. The sooner we all get vaccinated, the sooner we’ll put this terrible experience behind us. The sooner we take it, the more lives we’ll save. I’m excited to see how many of our doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are getting in line and getting vaccinated. They recognize how important this is and appreciate the responsibility they have, and they know the vaccine is safe. I hope others in the community will take it with the same enthusiasm I see among the team here at Redmond.”

John Quinlivan, Redmond Regional Medical Center CEO

“The response of our people has been beyond amazing. What calls individuals to work in health care has been on full display. They all truly care for patients and our community, working long hours and under incredible stress since late February. Our direct caregivers go into harm’s way and take care of very sick patients, and have to often deal with sad outcomes. We have many more personnel behind the scenes who support and enable the caregivers who have also put in long hours and shown tremendous creativity and dedication as we stood up new facilities and had to adapt to constantly changing rules and guidelines. For me the pandemic has shown our mettle, and we stand strong together.”

Kurt Stuenkel, Floyd President and CEO

“I am both humbled and filled with tremendous pride when I reflect on the work that has been done by the medical Imaging teams. Our radiologists, technologists and support staff show up every day and do what they are called to do, under extraordinary circumstances. The privilege of witnessing their early courage in the face of the unknown, their dedication to their profession and their patients as we began to understand the magnitude of what was happening, and now, their unending commitment to their community and to each other, will undoubtedly be the most profound moment of my career.”

Aimee Griffin, Floyd Director of Imaging Services

“I continue to be amazed at the dedication and selflessness of so many people throughout this unexpected journey. People have pulled together to do truly heroic things.”

Taunya Faulkner, Floyd Vice President of Performance Improvement

“If you could look into the eyes of our nurses, nurse assistants, unit secretaries, environmental service team, dietary associates, respiratory therapists, radiology techs, lab techs, our physicians and so many more, you would see the pain, the sorrow, the devastation, the hope for healing, the chance at living and the tears for those that have lost the battle with this virus. My ICU staff will always be my heroes. I’ve watched them care and continue to care for those who can’t care for themselves. It’s what we do ... it’s what we were made for.”

Shannon Cooke, Clinical Manager of Floyd’s Intensive Care Unit

“I try to live a life of gratitude and servant leadership, but there have been days over the last 10 months that I have had to dig deep to find positive attributes during tremendous suffering that our community has been experiencing. The dedication that our Floyd team has shown in response to COVID-19 is truly inspiring. I am serving with the best, and their love of others shines brightly. The critical work they perform day in and day out to serve our patients in an extreme environment will be a memory marker that I shall never forget. I thank God for our team and for the difference they make in people’s lives.”

David T. Early, Vice President of Support Services and Operations at Floyd and Administrator of Floyd Cherokee Medical Center.

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