A sign along Colby Ave. in Everett seen this summer near Providence Regional Medical Center. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

A sign along Colby Ave. in Everett seen this summer near Providence Regional Medical Center. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Health care workers find silver linings in the year of COVID

“Every supportive sign and all the smiling eyes above the masks remind us we are not alone.”

EVERETT — For all of the long hours, uncertainty, fear, shortages and exhaustion that defined their 2020, many local health care leaders and front-line workers found reason to be grateful at the end of the most trying of years.

The Daily Herald asked a few to reflect on what they’re thankful for in a time that seems to spare no one anxiety.

Their year changed dramatically Jan. 20 with the nation’s first known case of COVID-19 arriving at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. The patient, a 35-year-old Snohomish County man who had just returned from a visit to China, was treated successfully.

In their own words …

Dr. Ryan Keay, medical director for Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s emergency department, is vaccinated on Dec. 18, 2020. (Providence Regional Medical Center Everett) 201218

Dr. Ryan Keay, medical director for Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s emergency department:

“2020 seemed endless in the world of emergency medicine, and yet we have so much for which to be grateful. With the shortages of personal protective equipment, and the perception of risk to our own health and safety, the early days of the pandemic were touch-and-go.

“However, through collaboration and innovation, we have been able to ensure a steady supply for everyone on the front lines. The cognitive struggle of caring for patients, and identifying a positive COVID infection, was challenging. We had kindness and support from our medical and Snohomish County community.

“They all rallied and made us feel loved. As case numbers rise and the end of COVID seems far away, we are blessed to have strong families, and we feel grateful for the beaming faces that keep us going. Every supportive sign and all the smiling eyes above the masks remind us we are not alone.”

Dr. Nariman Heshmati

Dr. Nariman Heshmati

Dr. Nariman Heshmati, associate medical director of surgery at The Everett Clinic:

“I’m thankful for the unrelenting dedication so many showed during this time of crisis to take care of our communities — from the front-line health care workers to the many people who kept our critical businesses up and running and the families that supported them. We faced one of the biggest challenges in our lifetime and we came together to get through this.”

Dr. Andrew Richter

Dr. Andrew Richter

Dr. Andrew Richter, The Everett Clinic Urgent Care Walk-In Clinics:

“I am grateful the medical community was able to work together toward a common purpose. We faced the first cases in the United States and were able to help the entire country and influence the way the whole world responded to the public health crisis of our generation.”

Dr. Hillary Russell

Dr. Hillary Russell

Dr. Hillary Russell, The Everett Clinic Medical Director, Behavioral Health

“I am grateful to be part of an organization that took a public stand in 2020 against our nation’s longstanding issues around racism and health equity. It is an honor to work with people at the local and national level who are dedicated to carrying out this commitment in coming year.”

Dr. Alka Atal-Barrio

Dr. Alka Atal-Barrio

Dr. Alka Atal-Barrio, chief medical officer for The Everett Clinic:

“I am grateful for our clinical teams who, despite fear and uncertainty, have dedicated their work to helping others. Together, we have been able to care for and make a difference in our community. I’m so thankful we now have the opportunity to help vaccinate our community against COVID-19.”

Crystal Blankinship

Crystal Blankinship

Crystal Blankinship, behavioral health manager for the Providence Medical Group:

“I am grateful for the unique experience of supporting both staff and patients during a global pandemic. I have witnessed the selflessness of behavioral health professionals providing care to patients while experiencing the same anxieties. I am grateful for colleagues who were open to getting uncomfortable and exploring ways they can unlearn systemic racism. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share with staff and patients that we are all having a normal human response to external factors we have little control over, and we all have tremendous resiliency to take pride in.”

Dr. Sandeep Sachdeva

Dr. Sandeep Sachdeva

Dr. Sandeep Sachdeva, chief medical officer for Swedish/Edmonds:

“The pandemic has overshadowed this entire year. And touched many aspects of our lives profoundly. We naturally pine for life as we knew pre-pandemic, and as I reflect on life as we have come to know it in 2020, I cannot help but focus on the silver linings. One of them is the discovery of a superpower called gratitude.

“Through my focus on wellness, I learned how potent the feeling of gratefulness can be. I find myself grateful for so many things during 2020. I found a renewed sense of purpose in my work. We collectively faced a new threat in the form of SARS-CoV-2. And through the stress, the trials and tribulations we found new camaraderie, a sense of bonding within the health care community and with the larger community whom we serve and is the reason for existence.

“During the lockdown in the spring of 2020, I remember driving to work on an empty road that otherwise would be full of traffic. It was a scary feeling but also tinged with gratitude that I was still able to go to work and interact with other caregivers in person at a time when a good portion of the world was shifting to work from home.

“I am grateful for the support the community members expressed through countless messages sent to health care workers. I am grateful for all the essential workers outside of health care who have rallied with equal vigor. I am grateful for the simple joys of life: dinner with family, a walk amongst the trees, for the change of seasons, for the rain and for the sunshine, for simply being able to breathe normally. As we stand on the threshold of 2021, I am most grateful for the vaccine that brings with it the promise of freeing humanity from the fear of this new virus, for the lifting of the morale amongst my peers and the hope of seeing people smile when I say hello to them, in person.”

Dr. Katherine Bumstead

Dr. Katherine Bumstead

Dr. Katherine Bumstead, a family practice doctor with Providence Medical Group:

“The business of health care in the United States has never been revered for its agility and ability to change quickly. This pandemic has shown us what we can accomplish when faced with a challenge that threatens the health and safety of all.

“I am grateful for our unified and guiding mission to care for people — all people. I am grateful for the speed and ability with which we created virtual and telephone access to care for all, set up respiratory “COVID” clinics, and drive-through testing tents. We also came together and cared for each other, dedicating time, being flexible and pushing our individual resilience. I am grateful for my colleagues and I am grateful for the support and caring of our patients and community.”

Dr Chris Spitters (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Dr Chris Spitters (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish Health District:

“1. The dedicated, hard-working and flexible staff of the Health District.

“2. The collective will and support of our local governments, health care system, and Snohomish County residents.

“3. The scientists and experts who have guided our efforts, made testing technology rapidly available, and now bring hope for an exit from the pandemic in the form of vaccines.”

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