West Hartford residents are asked to join in an effort to show their support for healthcare workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic by placing hearts in their windows or somewhere visible.
By Ronni Newton
It’s no secret that healthcare workers are the people on the front line of the battle against COVID-19, in Connecticut as well as throughout the country and the world, working long hours while potentially putting their own health at risk as they treat patients with highly-contagious disease.
Many West Hartford residents are eager to contribute to their efforts in some way, and indeed many have already, through efforts that include donating personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies and supplying healthcare workers with meals from local restaurants.
There’s also a very simple way residents are being asked to provide support: through hearts.
“I would love to see hearts line every door and window in West Hartford to support all healthcare workers across the state,” said Rebecca Stewart, a local resident who is also vice president of Content Strategy for Hartford Hospital. “I’ve heard from nurses in a few different hospitals who tell me this helps when they are driving to work.”
“It’s nice to see that other people are supporting us, especially now,” said Kelly McGuire, a West Hartford resident who has been a Emergency Room nurse at Hartford Hospital for just over a year.
McGuire said she’s not necessarily working more hours, “but the shifts sometimes feel longer,” especially when she is assigned to work with COVID-19 patients. “It’s definitely challenging,” she added.
Torrey Trzcienski, nurse manager of the Emergency Department at Hartford Hospital, has been seeing patients with COVID-19 symptoms every day for the past few weeks. She has worked at Hartford Hospital for 13 years and now lives in Marlboro, but has ties to West Hartford where her grandparents are from.
“I’ve seen [hearts] everywhere from private homes to signs posted at the Convention Center,” Trzcienski said. “It helps know that the community is behind us, that they know the rules of the game when they are staying home but we can’t stay home, that they’re right behind us.”
Those who work the night shift feel supported when they see lighted hearts, or even candles, in the windows.
Trzcienski said about 50% of the patients coming into the Emergency Department at Hartford Hospital are currently displaying coronavirus-type symptoms, including fevers and respiratory problems. A brand new COVID-19 triage area outside the Emergency Department was just completed, passed an inspection by the Department of Public Health, and is in use.
The free-standing triage facility is actually a trailer, Trcienski said, a free-standing approximately 40-foot-by-40-foot structure, raised above the ground, with 17 bays. “It allows us to isolate COVID-potential patients,” and inside it looks just like an actual emergency department space.
The Hartford HealthCare system has been ramping up capacity in other ways as well, including converting recovery rooms and operating rooms inside the hospital into patient beds.
The hearts are very much welcome as staff deals with an unprecedented crisis, and Stewart said Hartford HealthCare has been sharing the photos of hearts posted on social media.
“Thank you – it’s made a difference and it’s important,” she said.
On their website, Hartford HeathCare even has a heart with the words “Thank You” written in the center, that can be printed out.
“As a small sign of our overwhelming gratitude, we hope you’ll join us in displaying the heart below on your front door or window to let these healthcare heroes know how much we appreciate them,” the website states. “Take a photo and share the picture with us on social media #HeartsForHealthcareWorkers.”
“We do this because we love this profession,” said Trzcienski. Social distancing is hard on everyone, she added, and even seemingly small ways to build connection, like putting hearts in the window, are important.
“I think we just want [the public] to know that we love their support. This is the best thing they can do for us,” Trzcienski said.
“Knowing the support is there, that they are staying at home like they should, is important,” said McGuire.
“We are all in this together, and all healthcare teams need to know their community is behind them,” said Stewart. “Share the love, and post a heart,” she said.
“Stay at home and practice social distancing. This will help us. It will help all of us get through this,” McGuire said.
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