First responders from Kirkland, Bothell and Woodinville filled the parking lot of the west entrance of EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland the evening of April 16.
Lights from fire and police vehicles flashed as groups of nurses and doctors from inside the hospital came out every few minutes to meet their colleagues from out in the field. A number of bystanders had pulled out their phones to take photos and film the scene.
While a loud and chaotic scene at a hospital might indicate a large-scale emergency in most cases, Thursday’s happenings were different.
Members of the Kirkland fire and police departments, Bothell fire and police departments and Woodinville fire and rescue and police departments were at the medical center to show their appreciation for the healthcare workers at the hospital who have been responding to the COVID-19 outbreak since the first U.S. cases and deaths occurred in Kirkland at the end of February.
“We just really want to thank them,” said Catherine Breault, public information officer for Woodinville Fire & Rescue, about the hospital healthcare workers.
The event was organized by the King County Fire Chiefs Association and was part of a coordinated effort that had first responders from jurisdictions throughout the county holding similar events all day at 15 hospitals and medical centers.
Breault said they held everything on the same day because wanted to make it a big show of support for their colleagues, noting that they have been fighting the pandemic longer than anyone in the country — especially in Kirkland, where the first deaths occurred.
“We’ve been in this fight the whole time” she said. “We’re still in the battle.”
Breault said they also wanted to remind the public to stay home and to practice social distancing if and when they do have to leave their homes. Personally, she said the stay-at-home order is important because both she and her husband — who works for the Lynnwood Police Department — haven’t been able to stay home. And neither can her coworkers and many of her friends, some of whom have spouses working as nurses in hospitals.
“It matters to my family who’s out there every day,” Breault said. “It’s directly impacted all of our teammates.”
She added that everyone has been impacted by the outbreak, whether it has been having a loved one get sick from the coronavirus or having their job affected as many businesses throughout the region have closed. Breault said we need to think about the people we know and how the outbreak has affected them.
While Thursday’s events were meant to thank the hospital workers, that gratitude was reciprocated.
As groups of nurses and doctors stepped out of the building to rounds of applause and shouts of thanks, they returned the applause and shouted their thanks as well.
Mary Shepler, chief nursing officer at EvergreenHealth, was humbled and honored when she learned that she and her colleagues were going to be recognized this way, and said they have just as much appreciation for the first responders. She said they are doing the same work as those in the hospital and first responders are the ones bringing the patients to them. What they do as healthcare workers is a team sport, she said, and it helps to know those out in the field are with them and keeping her and her colleagues in the hospital in their thoughts.
Shepler said there is so much good work being done in the community and the first responders may not realize what they do for the healthcare workers in the hospitals and how they help them keep doing what they’re doing every day — especially when things get tough.
“It’s amazing,” she said.