Guest Column: You play an important part in our community story


 by Rachelle Schultz, EdD, Winona Health president/CEO


In a discussion this week, I heard a short statement that caught my attention and seemed to present an opportunity to reframe how we are all thinking about the coronavirus and its impact on our lives. We have been watching the heart-wrenching stories of frontline workers all over dealing with situations that are testing every ounce of their being. They are there holding the hands of dying patients, witnesses to lives on this earth ending. They are talking with family members shouldering the anguish of not being able to be present all together at these meaningful moments in time. They celebrate those who recover and return home. They worry about their own families, their friends and neighbors hoping people will be safe and protect one another. And they look for a light that says there is hope more people won’t suffer and die from this virus. This is playing out every day at Winona Health.

What if we reframed how we all look at this virus? While we have focused a lot of attention on our health care heroes, and rightfully so, what if we moved upstream toward prevention? We have defined our essential health care workers as the frontline, but what if they are really our last line of defense? What if our frontline workers are you? In reframing how we think about the coronavirus in our community and region (and nationally) it has been devastating our schools, our economy, and pretty much every aspect of our lives. Our hospital, clinics, and senior care residences are responding with the care, compassion and professionalism we always provide, and our staff continue to do a remarkable job during the most challenging of times in recent memory. They are simply remarkable people with great fortitude and compassion to see them through.

As a public, as community members, and as friends, family and neighbors to each other, we are all being called to do more than our individual parts. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in the virus or not. It doesn’t matter if you have already had it and suffered only mild symptoms. It doesn’t even matter if you are sick and tired of hearing about COVID. We all share in this experience like no other experience in our lifetime. Our actions matter. Following masking protocols, physical distancing, hand hygiene, etc. are the ways we show up for each other. How you show up makes a statement.

I read a lot; it’s a favorite past time. Perhaps you have heard of the hero’s journey, an archetype that is in nearly every story. The hero is called to some great cause and initially resists the call. But later, the hero takes up the quest and begins a journey to retrieve a great treasure. Along the way, mentors, advisors, companions with special skills and the like join in the quest. The hero must battle many foes, dark demons and monsters, and ultimately face death in order to get to the treasure. And so, the hero perseveres supported by the fellow journeyers. Ultimately, the hero reaches the treasure and returns home to share the treasure with others. Sound like any great movie you’ve seen?

Perhaps in our case, the treasure is the vaccine that should be arriving in the next months. Perhaps it is a renewed sense of what it means to be a community. Every one of us plays a role in the current journey that is unfolding within the pandemic. Maybe you are a hero, or a guide, a mentor, someone with a special skill. The coronavirus is enough of a monster; ideally, we don’t need foes in the form of non-masking, holding social events, or ignoring all the safety protocols put in place to protect our community members. The fact remains, we are all on this journey together.

A lot is being asked of each of us. Limit your Thanksgiving get-togethers, and by extension, you should be thinking about Christmas and even spring break – and everything else in between. We are not over the virus, and wishing it were so will not make it happen. The only way to conquer such a situation is to work it through until it is done. No shortcuts. This experience is testing all of us, not the least of which are our health care workers. I am in awe of their determination and skill in handling the COVID situation. They are also human beings who feel deeply and carry their experiences close to the heart. We need your help.

You are our families, friends and neighbors. You are the frontline when it comes to the coronavirus. What you do every day matters to those fighting to save lives. Our physicians, nurses, clinicians, respiratory therapists and support staff are banded together caring for members of our community – your family, your friends, your neighbors. I ask that you shore up the frontline so the last line of defense can do their work knowing you have their back.

We are all being tested, and our respective responses run a continuum. Our emotions are the means by which most are processing the devastating effects of the pandemic. There is hope, there is a light. We have not reached it yet and so, until we do, please know the part you play in our community story is an important one. As we look to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, perhaps we can reframe this too. Be thankful. I am deeply grateful for my family, my friends, my colleagues, and my community. I will spend a peaceful Thanksgiving simply giving thanks.


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