An Ounce of Prevention
Healthcare Hero. That phrase has been used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet in most cases, the witnesses to the heroics were the heroes themselves. With strict limitations on visitors, very few people have had direct knowledge of what was happening inside our hospital.
In November 2020, Mary Greeley Medical Center was presented with an opportunity to show the world what was happening. We were asked to allow a Des Moines Register reporter and photojournalist to embed on units where we were treating COVID-19 patients.
To our knowledge, no other hospital in the state had done anything like this. It was a situation that needed careful consideration. Would staff in these units feel comfortable with a reporter and photographer observing them, following them around for hours at a time? Would patients and families be comfortable? How would we handle privacy issues? The Register team would be on COVID-19 units; how would we protect them? Did we have enough PPE?
We thought through all these issues. We met with the reporter, who assured us they would respect privacy policies. Most importantly, we surveyed staff, who enthusiastically embraced this opportunity. Nurses, doctors, and others involved in caring for COVID-19 patients wanted this story to be told. They wanted the public to understand the seriousness of this pandemic. They wanted the public to understand what frontline healthcare workers were experiencing, and what it was like for patients and families.
We opted to allow reporter Courtney Crowder and photojournalist Zach Boyden-Holmes to spend a week at Mary Greeley, primarily in the ICU and on our 6th-floor COVID-19 unit. We introduced them to key staff and physicians, and we suggested several story angles. Then we essentially got out of their way and let them do their thing.
Courtney and Zach developed trusting relationships with our staff and the physicians who were on the frontlines of our COVID-19 response. They bonded with COVID-19 patients and family members who wanted the story told as much as hospital staff did.
The result was a thoughtfully written, beautifully photographed, and deeply moving seven-part series called “Inside COVID’s Siege.” The series ran from January through early March and each story was based at Mary Greeley. The stories went nationwide, published in other newspapers in the Register’s corporate family. (You can find each story in the series on our website at www.mgmc.org/COVID-Series.)
I have read this series with incredible pride in our staff and the level of care we are providing our patients during an incredibly challenging time. I was forever touched by the personal stories shared by patients and families.
I also read this series knowing that we had contributed a vital chapter to the history of COVID-19 in the state and in the country.
The Register series chronicled unforgettable moments—some touched by joy, some by sorrow. As our COVID-19 numbers stabilize, as more and more people get vaccinated, as warmer days arrive, this series serves as a reminder of what we’ve all been through. It is a testament to the value of compassion, the strength of families, and the power of resilience.
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