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Letter to Our Community (12/22)

Traditionally, we spend this time of year celebrating accomplishments and spreading holiday cheer. As 2020 draws to a close, however, what we are feeling is more akin to grief.

As the pandemic began in the spring, our team felt challenged but up to the task. At this point, it is fair to say our spirits aren’t quite so high. We remain dedicated, steadfast and ready to care for you, but we are also feeling loss.

Lake Regional experienced our first COVID death in July. Since then, 75 patients have died at our hospital because of this virus. For people who dedicate their lives to healing others, to being a source of hope for patients and their families, this is a heavy toll.

After reading that number, some of you will ask if those who died had underlying conditions. Others will ask their age.

The data tell us that increased age and such chronic conditions as diabetes and heart disease are connected to COVID-19 deaths. But experience tells us that the rest of us are at risk, too. Our youngest casualty was a previously healthy 21-year-old.

Sadly, those who succumb to this virus often do so after prolonged battles. Because of isolation protocols, they struggle and die without the comfort of family at their bedside. Our nurses and doctors are proxies for grieving loved ones communicating through glass or phones. The act of standing in for these families makes the loss more deeply personal.

Perhaps the burden of loss, including the loss of connection, is felt more keenly because we don’t yet know how long we must endure it. Responding to this pandemic has been like running a marathon without knowing which mile marker we’ve passed. Thankfully, that began to change yesterday.

On Dec. 21, Lake Regional vaccinated its first group of employees. It seems fitting that on the darkest day of the year, the winter solstice, we experienced a real glimmer of hope. We believe there will be more good news to come in the months ahead as the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more widely available. For now, we are grateful that the vaccine is available to our frontline caregivers.

In addition, we are grateful that we have received tremendous support from our community throughout the past year. You have fed us and made donations. You have kept us in your prayers and encouraged us to keep going, and we will.

Just like this community we serve, we are tired of grieving COVID-19 losses. We are ready for hope. Our holiday wish is that you will please take care of yourselves and your loved ones so that we can celebrate together once again in 2021.

Our Commitment Runs Deep,
Dane W. Henry, FACHE