Brian Woodham

A year ago, the Auburn community was creeping slowly back into public in limited fashion after a mandatory shutdown kept everybody homebound for everything but the essentials. 

For more than a month, most businesses were shuttered or severely limited in operation, workers stuck at home for their suddenly-remote jobs, and the streets and public spaces eerily empty. 

Through the shutdown and in the year since, health care workers never left their posts, working punishing hours, spending much of their time separated from their families while caring for our loved ones, standing in for patients’ families at the bedside when death came, and celebrating the victory of sending a patient home. 

This past week honored one of the most essential groups along the front lines who sacrificed so much while caring for so many —nurses. 

National Nurses Week should be extended to a month or, perhaps, an entire year for nurse’s selfless efforts to care for our loved ones while putting themselves in harm’s way. 

Since the pandemic started last March, more than 19,000 health care workers in Alabama have been diagnosed with Covid-19, some 4,700 of whom have been long-term care employees. 

Nurses made up many of those on the front lines who became stricken with this deadly disease while trying to care for the sickest in the community. 

Courtney Sutton, an ICU nurse at East Alabama Medical Center, shared some of struggles nurses experienced at a ceremony last month. 

“In this year, death and dying has not looked like it ever has before. This is where it gets harder. As a nurse in the ICU, we train to try to save a life, and when we can’t we do all that we can to make passing from this life bearable, without pain or struggle, and allowing the patient this time with their family that is dignified without chaos but offers some sense of closure, hopefully,” she said. “Those moments were difficult to create this year. In the beginning as a patient was dying, we can be the only ones present with them, and only the primary nurse and respiratory nurse at that. 

“We stood arm in arm praying and praising. We prayed for the patient to have peace and (be) free from struggle or pain. We prayed for their family. We prayed that their families knew that their precious loved one is not alone in that time.”

Sutton also shared that she relied on her faith and trust in God to get her and other through the loss and suffering of the pandemic. Many in the community feel a similar way about nurses, who helped shepherd loved ones passing on from this life while guiding many others back home to their families. 

So if you see a nurse donned in light blue walking around this week, give them your thanks for putting everything on the line.

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