COLORADO SPRINGS — March 13th marks one year since the first known COVID-19 death in El Paso County, and it's been a challenging year for healthcare workers – a year unlike any seen in our lifetime.
Jessica Yoo, a registered nurse and a nursing supervisor at UCHealth Memorial Hospital, was interviewed in April of last year, and at that time, she shared a personal moment of crisis. “I kind of had a mental breakdown for about a half hour, and I appreciate so much our leadership because she pulled me aside, and she gave me a hug and that means a lot."
That simple gesture – a hug from a hospital leader – helped Jessica to be able to offer support to others who were struggling. “I think with her doing that for me… it allowed me the opportunity to extend that to others. I remember specifically being in a rapid response situation and the primary nurse kind of was looking at me with those ‘deer in the headlights’ eyes, and I was able to tell her - ‘It's going to be OK.’ ”
As the clinical manager for pharmacy at UCHealth Memorial Hospital, Chris Martin also had to manage new emotions and issues that he says united the many departments in the hospital. The fight to save lives and keep the hospital safe didn’t just involve doctors or nurses – it also included pharmacists, the employees who clean rooms, the food service workers, facilities, lab employees - it was everyone pulling together. “It definitely was different (emotionally for the staff) and we were all going through this experience together both professionally and personally. It kind of put everybody on the same level, if you will.”
When Jessica looks back at this unprecedented year, she has trouble pinpointing one specific moment in a year filled with unbelievable memories. She thinks back to being at the bedside with someone because their loved one couldn't be, or being there and wheeling a patient out to meet up with their loved ones again. “So when I think back on all this, I think of how resilient healthcare is. How people are resilient and how we have really had to come together as a community, as healthcare providers. Everyone from nursing staff to environmental staff and so many more, and I really feel like we're a stronger team because of it.”
Chris says that for him, there is one moment that stands out, and that happened on December 14th, 2020. “The moment that really sticks out to me far and away more than anything else is our first day of vaccine clinic. I was drawing the first dose in the county, and just the number of people who were here for that event, and what that meant to so many people. There was hope, and I was there in the middle of that moment … that really jumps out to me. It's just that moment of hope where it felt like ‘OK, we are going to get through this, and we are going to get back to normal again.’ ”
The vaccines, along with other medical breakthroughs like new monoclonal antibody drugs, that are providing new hope - a stark contrast from the uncertainty of a year ago.
Jessica says, “There's hope and there is a lot of enthusiasm and there is light at the end of the tunnel - that we might be seeing the end. We are excited for 98-year-olds who come into the vaccine clinic, and they're giddy. It's almost like Christmas morning for them. That's exciting to be a part of and for the team, we are just happy to be a part of it.”
Chris also says it’s been wonderful to witness the vaccine clinics. “That's part of being in the clinic that makes it so fun - seeing people's reactions. We have people taking selfies, we have people literally screaming with joy when they get their vaccine. We have people on Facetime getting a vaccine live, and people getting emotional. It's really been incredible to watch that range of emotions. Every day we’re doing almost 2,000 vaccines, and some pop back behind the divider to see the pharmacy staff to say, ‘Thank you, you guys are heroes, thank you for what you're doing.’ That's where the rewarding part comes in.”
To register with UCHealth to get on a list to receive a vaccination, visit www.uchealth.org/covidvaccine [uchealth.org]. Or, if you don’t have access to a computer, you can call their hotline at 720-462-2255.
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