COVID-19 work leaves local nurses thankful

By Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
In April, a sign raising was held at Texoma Medical Center in Denison. The banner donated by FastSigns thanks health care workers for their continued service during the coronavirus pandemic.

Local nurses say the last 8-9 months have been hard, but this season, they are thankful for the people they have been able to help, the things they have learned along the way and the support they have received from the community.

Since the pandemic began, more than 4,000 people have had the illness in Grayson County and hundreds of them have been hospitalized. More than 100 individuals that had the illness have died. 

At Texoma Medical Center in Denison, nurses have worked to help people overcome a disease they say is nothing like the flu.

nurse holds a swab for the coronavirus / covid19 test

"We have had young, old ... There is no discrimination (with this disease) at the brink of death in otherwise healthy people and thankfully a good number of ours have come back and been able to tell their stories," TMC ICU Nurse Manager Rebecca Keller described the experience of the last few months as a roller coaster.

 Even as the number of active cases in the county continue to rise, there are things about the situation to be thankful for this holiday season.

"The community has been unbelievably supportive of the hospital and the nurses and the therapist and everyone working here. We constantly, even nine months into this situation, still feel the support and the love. It makes me even more proud to be living here in Texoma," Keller said.

In the beginning, no one knew what to expect. 

"Everyone started with some fear, then we gained some confidence in the camaraderie of our team that is unlike anything that I've seen in nursing before," Keller said. "You put your own personal fears aside and remember why you became a nurse." 

The disease is hardest, mentally on the patients who are awake and aware because they are not allowed visitors in their rooms, Keller explained about what she has seen.

Nursing home

"A lot of them experience loneliness and I am sure a deep fear of being there by themselves," she said

But the nurses have stepped into that void where possible and spent even more time than they normally would in those rooms with those patients trying to build relationships so that they don't feel so alone in this situation. 

And the local hospital staff haven't been left alone either. There have been some high skilled workers from around the country who have come to help out to offer relief and allow local staff to go home and be with their own families. 

Keller said those ICU critical care trained visiting nurses have become like part of the TMC family and they plan to stay as long as they are needed.

What more people could do to help the staff at local hospitals combat this virus?

Simply wear a mask. 

"It has been proven to work," Keller acknowledged that she knows people are weary of the virus protocols and safety precautions. "Just keep fighting we will beat this." 

While some of the local nurses will not be at home with their families on Thanksgiving, Keller said they will be holding Thanksgiving feasts on each unit at the hospital so that the staff can celebrate with their work families.