St. Mary’s Health Care System observed the second anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11 by planting a combined total of more than 2,700 white flags on the lawns of its hospitals in Athens, Lavonia and Greensboro. Each flag honors an inpatient with COVID-19 who received care at the three hospitals over the past two years.
“With this observance, we mark a somber anniversary for our world, our nation, our communities, and our healthcare ministry,” said St. Mary’s Vice President of Mission Services, Julie Carter. “As we plant these flags, we invite our colleagues and our communities to reflect on how this pandemic has impacted all of us and to look ahead to the promise of better times to come.”
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020.
“A year ago when we marked the first anniversary, we all hoped the worst was behind us. Little did we know that the worst was ahead of us,” said Sacred Heart Hospital President Jeff English. “With every surge, our colleagues and providers dug deeper and found a way to keep going. Their commitment, dedication, and self-sacrifice are truly awesome.”
“Our whole system ramped up in those early days and we’ve been giving it 110 percent every day since then,” said Good Samaritan Hospital President Tanya Adcock. “Our faith in each other and in God was the only thing that got us through it. I pray we never see anything like it again.”
At St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens, colleagues and volunteers were joined by the Franklin family from Monticello: Ronnie, Angela and Dorothy. Ronnie spent 112 days in four hospitals fighting COVID, including St. Mary’s; his mother, Dorothy, spent 71 days at St. Mary’s fighting the disease, and Ronnie’s wife, Angela, worked to be as close and supportive as possible as her loved ones fought for life.
“I’m so thankful to be here,” Ronnie said, noting that he and Dorothy continue to have shortness of breath as a result of their long battle with the disease. “I’m grateful we’re alive.”
At St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital in Lavonia, survivor Arthur Conway not only came to join the flag-planting, but to return a Bible he had taken with him when he was discharged. “It got me through, and I hope it will help someone else the way it helped me,” he said. Since March 11 was his birthday, those gathered took a moment to sing “Happy Birthday” to him and wish him many more.
At St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Greensboro, Chaplain Marc Lhowe gave thanks for the support of the community and the selfless dedication of the hospital’s colleagues and providers. “This pandemic has lasted longer than we had dreamed in our worst nightmares,” he said in his prayer. “We have lost people dear to us. But we continue to find hope in the midst of our weariness and grief, and that has sustained us.”
In all, colleagues, volunteers and guests planted nearly 1,500 flags at St. Mary’s, nearly 800 at Sacred Heart, and more than 400 at Good Samaritan.
“We recognize those who were not only hospitalized but passed away from COVID due to the severity of their infection,” noted system President and CEO Montez Carter. “These deaths have been tragic for the families and hard on our staff, who not only provide exceptional care but also serve as the eyes, ears, hands and hearts of family members who cannot be with their loved ones while they are in the hospital.
“There are countless stories of nurses facilitating Zoom calls, printing and hanging up pictures, helping patients record voice messages, and moving beds so patients could wave to loved ones through the window,” he noted.
“Our colleagues continue to inspire me,” Carter concluded. “Their dedication to our system is a blessing and their compassion for our patients brings joy to my heart. They have been – and continue to be – a light in the darkness. Together, we will put this pandemic behind us.”
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