COVID-19 Heroes Day: Honoring Sacrifice

Annual Texas observance will keep the horrors and triumphs of the pandemic top of mind at Texas hospitals.

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For health care facilities all over Texas, a day of reflection on the heroes and the fallen of the COVID-19 pandemic will tap into memories at polar ends – sadness and happiness, inevitable despair and improbable elation.

That’s how it is for Sherri Abendroth as her hospital system, DHR Health in the Rio Grande Valley, prepares to observe the first annual COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day, an official day of recognition that Texas will observe for the first time on March 4.

“There are thousands of moments that if I think about them too much, I will cry,” said Abendroth, DHR’s director of emergency management. “There were many days and many nights working this thing that you couldn’t help but feel the emotional impact. And then at the same time, there were those moments where you just jumped for joy because something worked, and we had times where we didn’t expect a positive outcome with a particular patient. And then suddenly, they’re better and going home.”

COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day
Join THA and Texas hospitals in celebrating the inaugural Texas COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day on March 4.

Lives lost, lives saved and those who saved them will all be part of the tapestry of COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day. Every March 4 – the first day that detection of a COVID-19 case in Texas was announced back in 2020 – will be set aside for the annual observance, thanks to legislation passed with Texas Hospital Association support. Rep. Bobby Guerra (D-Mission) authored House Bill 2166 during last year’s regular session of the Texas Legislature, creating the day in honor of “people who lost their lives to COVID-19 and in honor of health care workers, first responders, and other essential workers who kept working during the COVID-19 pandemic so the public could stay safe.”

THA is encouraging all of its member hospitals to celebrate the day not only within their own hospitals and systems, but also at the community level. Suggested initiatives for hospitals and systems include:

  • Staff, community or local press events;
  • Tribute videos for local health care workers and others honored as part of COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day;
  • Creating special signage to commemorate the day; and
  • Social media posts.

More than 95,000 Texans have lost their lives to COVID-19. Abendroth, who oversaw DHR’s COVID-19 immunization clinics in the Valley, recalls the “survivor’s guilt” that took hold when a treatment didn’t take and a life was lost. Noting that COVID-19 won’t be the last pandemic, she hopes that the new day of observance “puts us in a position where we don’t forget.”

“How many community organizations or even individuals dedicated themselves to helping, without worry about being compensated for it, or what they were going to get for it?” she said. “I think that honoring the people who did it from their heart – it was selfless, it was one of those events that brought community together in many, many ways, and I think that needs to be highlighted, especially now. There’s so much faction and dissension going on in a lot of different arenas that we have to talk about the things that brought us together and unified people.”

More information and resources are available on THA’s webpage dedicated to COVID-19 Heroes and Memorial Day, which includes a sample press release, sample social media posts and graphics that facilities can use to promote the day.

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