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Linn County healthcare workers honored in Freedom Festival Tribute to Heroes

Updated: May. 9, 2021 at 11:07 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - On the windows of UnityPoint – St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, facing the thousands of drivers who cruise along the S-curve on Interstate 380 every day, are six letters with a much greater meaning: “HEROES.”

In Linn County, more than 7,000 healthcare workers will be honored as such as part of the Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival’s annual “Tribute to Heroes” in June, with Tim Charles, president and CEO of Mercy Medical Center, Pramod Dwivedi, health director of Linn County Public Health, and Michelle Niermann, president of UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids, accepting on their behalf.

“Public health is a team sport,” Dwivedi said.

“No single individual can face a crisis, a calamity of this magnitude alone,” Charles said.

More than a year ago, healthcare workers worldwide began to face that challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, one with so much unknown and uncertainty in its early days.

“The lack of information, the lack of, then subsequently, the lack of supplies to support what it was that we needed to get done,” Charles said.

“Something that I haven’t seen very much among our healthcare team members, and that was a really high level of fear and anxiety,” Niermann said.

But they kept showing up, despite the risk they faced by just doing their jobs.

“It was really working impossible hours, day in and day out,” Dwivedi said.

“This was going to test us in a much different way,” Niermann said.

Then in the midst of that unprecedented challenge, another one: the derecho.

So many workers who were dealing with stress and heartbreak in their professional lives also faced personal devastation too.

“They were missing roofs. They were dealing with trees that were blocking their driveways or blocking their access to the hospital,” Charles said. “Despite that, our team showed up.”

Now, as healthcare workers look toward better days, with each shot of the COVID-19 vaccine providing one more glimmer of hope, they caution that it is still too soon for Iowans to let down their guards.

“We have to keep doing what we have been doing so successfully,” Dwivedi said.

But looking back at the labor and toil of the last year, they say it has been a story of challenge — and a story of success.

“One of the things I’ve always liked about healthcare is that it requires all kinds of people in all kinds of roles to make it work,” Niermann said.

“When we look back on the way this community rallied to deal with this challenge, I think we’re all going to feel very, very proud, and I’m really appreciative that we were able to do that together,” Charles said.

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