To the editor:
We witnessed history on Dec. 16. Holy Family Hospital in Methuen administered the first COVID-19 vaccine to 10 of our employees working on the front lines caring for patients throughout this pandemic. More will follow.
In that moment, we couldn’t help but feel that we were standing beside our health care brothers and sisters of the past as they witnessed Dr. Edward Jenner give the first smallpox vaccine in 1796 and Jonas Salk administer the polio vaccine in 1955. After a long and difficult road, a light at the end of the tunnel was finally in sight in our battle against this pernicious virus.
As health care professionals we have witnessed what we never wanted to see -- over 11,260 deaths and more than 292,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts alone since March. This novel virus has revealed the iron clad tenacity of our workforce. We have been tried, tested and asked to perform heroic tasks caring for extremely sick patients in numbers we have never seen before.
But it has also revealed the inspiring tenacity of our caregiving peers.
From the first day that COVID-19 appeared at our door last March, our employees have come to work with courage and steely determination to care for our patients. They held tablets and phones as families sang to their loved ones, showed them newborn children, read poetry, and said their last goodbyes.
They witnessed the worst that viruses can bring and the mighty strength of human beings. However exhausting this was, our staff charged forward, committed to care for one more patient, comfort one more family member.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us why we work in health care. We work through the darkness to tear it back and reveal the light. We work in the trenches to provide comfort and – with eyes to the future – eventually the cure to what ails those within our care.
Some days we bear enormous grief and sadness, while on others we share the joy and happiness of our patients as they are discharged home.
We choose to be here. It is our calling and our passion. But we are human, and we feel the worry and the pain of COVID-19 just like everyone else.
All of this is to point out the momentousness of what we are now witnessing: the collaborative effort of health care workers, scientists and others in the realization of a cure. Now, we must trust in the science, and trust in our skills as caregivers, as we fight to snuff out this virus.
Yes, there are still dark days ahead. We must all continue to do our part and not let our guard down. Continue to wear masks and maintain a safe, six feet from those who don’t live with you.
We must make difficult sacrifices this holiday season and postpone gathering with those outside your household. Why? Because now we know that the terrible impact of COVID-19 is preventable.
We need to be safe until widespread administration of the vaccine can protect us all.
We look to 2021 with a renewed sense of optimism. And we look forward to the time when we will reflect on COVID-19 and say, “We were there at the beginning of the end."
Until then, we are here for you, #HolyFamilyStrong.
Dr. William Goodman
Chief Medical Officer and Vice President, Medical Affairs
Vice President, Chief Nursing Officer
Holy Family Hospital