It’s evening outside of Verde Valley Medical Center. Shift change has begun. It’s been a long day for many nurses, providers and colleagues. But their walk to the parking lot reveals a reason to smile. Dozens of supporters and well-wishers from the community and local faith organizations are there, cheering on the front-line caregivers.
“Around 7:14 we're going to have cars begin to come into the parking lot, and they're all going to sit in their cars, they're going to have their flashers on. And the purpose of that is so when the employees of this hospital, as they start coming out and they see us with our flashers on, we're just thanking them,” said Frank Nevarez, pastor at C3 Cottonwood.
The gatherings began in late April and have grown as word has gotten out.
“We do have different churches,” says Nevarez. “Pastor Sam and Sandra Lundgren, they're the ones that organized this to begin with. And last week they did most of the nights. And then we came on board, meaning myself and C3 Cottonwood. We came and we took Friday and Saturday. But really for us, it's a nameless and a faceless group of people coming. It's not about one person or one church. It's about different denominations.”
According to Lori Smithson, director of Surgical and Patient Services at VVMC, “It has been amazing to watch the community response, to see them in our parking lot. To put their lights on, to have their blinkers going. To let us know that we are not alone here. That they truly care.”
One colleague’s reaction caught on video summed up feelings across the campus.
"We've had some feedback from several individuals. One in particular, I believe she came one night and as she's walking out what the group does, they just start clapping and yelling, ‘Thank you. Thank you for what you're doing,’” Nevarez shared. “And this lady came out and she recorded herself and I think she put it on Facebook, but she was saying how touched she was because of what was happening. To know that people understand what's going on in there or that we're standing with them, it just moved her to tears.”
In the video, Tiffany Oium, RN, makes her way to her vehicle and shares a heartfelt reaction, “Oh my gosh. I love you guys. That was the sweetest thing I’ve heard in my life.”
An emotional connection
“They're just doing an incredible job, but they are getting tired. And there's a concern. I mean as a father who works in the hospital and he's been testing people for the virus, and in one case, it was tested positive,” Nevarez shared. “When he goes home, he can't get close to his children. He can't hug them. And so as a father for me, that'd be very, very, very difficult knowing that they're going through this.”
It’s impossible not to be touched by the group that gathers at VVMC each night, according to Smithson, “Just their support has truly overwhelmed us as a staff.”
Nevarez says the group will continue to assemble each evening as long as needed. “Knowing they are going through this, the only thing I can say is, ‘Thank you so much for your sacrifice, for your time as you give of yourselves.’ The least we can do for you, is to be out here and say thank you and we support you.”