Workers at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital got a little encouragement last week, thanks to an inside elf and hundreds of area schoolchildren.
After initially dedicating part of the intensive care unit to COVID-19 patients, the hospital had added a second area in telemetry and was preparing to designate a third in medical-surgical, according to Ashley Nihsen, director of Jennie’s birthing center. Frontline workers caring for COVID-19 patients were feeling the stress and strain of the ongoing pandemic. They were tired from working long hours, worrying about exposing family members and having to wear personal protective equipment day after day.
On Nov. 13, Nihsen decided to do something about it.
“It’s still very hard and very challenging,” she said. “They had had several losses that week. In labor and delivery, our area is very happy most of the time.”
Nihsen wanted to orchestrate a show of support for her colleagues, so she reached out to several teachers. Her children — Landon, sixth grade; Brody, third grade; and Scarlett, kindergarten — attend middle, intermediate and primary school, respectively, in Harlan. She sent messages to their teachers, as well as her friend, Kelsey Assman, in Denison and Nihsen’s sister, Amber Knudsen, in Atlantic to ask whether their students could make cards for frontline workers. (It also happened to be World Kindness Day, when people are encouraged to practice random acts of kindness.) They said yes.
“The kids came home (from school) with 280 cards that night,” she said.
More cards came in from Denison and Atlantic in the days that followed, Nihsen said.
“I’ve had probably another 120 that have come in since Nov. 13, so we’ve had almost 400 cards come in,” she said.
The students thanked hospital workers for working hard to take care of patients, staying overnight to take care of patients, helping to fight the pandemic, etc., Nihsen said. Some made jokes, and some told nurses not to be sad, because they were supporting them.
“I know at these times it’s alot,” one student wrote. “You are just so wonderful. You inspire me. I don’t know you but I have wanted to be a nurse for a while. It’s my dream to help people. And you are one of the nurses that makes me urge to help.”
Another student addressed doctors: “Dear Doctors: Thank you for keeping people alive everyday. Thank you for every thing you do. You make people smile even if the have bad news. You picked a great job because you can save lives. I hope when I grow up I can be a doctor to.”
One student drew pictures of a couple outfits and wrote, “These may look like ordinary uniforms … But these are the uniforms of Super-Heroes. Thank you for all you do. Thank you for working hard through this pandemic.”
Another student warned, “Please hand sanitize after reading this card.”
Nihsen doesn’t take credit for the outpouring of support.
“I just sent a text,” she said. “The response was more than I could have imagined.”
Nihsen distributed the cards from Harlan on Nov. 16, giving priority to those in the emergency, intensive care, acute care for elders and telemetry units. As more cards came in, she spread them out to others in the building. Some were hung up in the units, in breakrooms and in the “resiliency room,” a quiet place where employees can get away from the stress.
“There were lots of tears shed — and just maybe a realization we’re going to be OK,” she said.