HELENA — It is safe to say that very few groups of people were hit as hard by the pandemic as our health care workers.
At Saint Peters Hospital in Helena, Registered Nurse Reesi Marquis was one of an army of hospital employees fighting to keep up with COVID-19 patients and everything else required to keep a hospital operating.
“Even in the middle of COVID people still have heart attacks, people still have strokes, people still have car accidents,” said Reesi.
A monumental task, with areas being quarantined for COVID use, and low staff numbers, but a task Reesi and her fellow front-line workers were up for. With a little help from the Helena community.
“You know when they were howling at 8:00 that was a big deal," said Reesi. "Hearing that feels good to know people support you and they recognize how important we are for the community, to keep this hospital up and running.”
While Saint Pete’s is adapting to bringing people in, Shodair Children’s behavioral health hospital is adapting to keep people out because of their COVID visitation restrictions.
“Right now, and for the past several months at least kids haven’t been able to see their families in person, in most cases," said Shodair Primary Therapist Lauren Leslie. "So, for the younger kids especially I think that’s really, really hard."
"They really rely on their parents and families, so reassuring them that even though they’re not getting that regular interaction with their families, that people still care about them. That their parents haven’t abandoned them," Leslie added. "That they want good things for them. And that nobody is trying to punish the kids. That’s been really challenging.”
That’s a challenge that can weigh on Lauren and the rest of the staff.
Like their counterparts at Saint Peter’s though, Shodair’s essential workers find the strength to come into work every day, amid the COVID uncertainty because of their community and the people they serve.
“I was happy and relieved that I didn’t get sick and I still had a job," Shodair Mental Health Tech Anthony Singleton told us. "So I was looking forward to keep working instead of being laid off or not working at all. That was my light at the end of the tunnel.
“For me the work is really centering and restorative, interacting with kids," added Leslie. "Just letting them know that I am there for them and want to understand their lives and problems is restorative to me personally.
Working at Saint Peter’s and Shodair was never easy, even before the pandemic. But the type of person drawn to both lines of work will do what they need to, to help those who need them. A trait that helps them find the light and the end of any tunnel.
Hopefully, that light is getting brighter now.