Engines roared to life as a motorcycle pack prepared to drive around Guadalupe Regional Medical Center on Sunday.
Several healthcare workers headed outside to watch as the motorcyclists drove past waving and smiling, all to say “Thank you.”
The group of riders came from several different motorcycle clubs in the San Antonio area, representing the cities of Windcrest and Universal City, offering their support to the local hospital for all of the work during the pandemic, rider and Universal City Councilman Paul Najarian said.
“We, as a sister city and part of being in Texas, needed to come out here and give and support as much as we could,” he said. “If we can’t do it physically, morally we can just let them know that we are behind them 100%. We are proud and appreciate so much of the work they do and we are just doing a little bit of our part to keep their spirits up and let them know that people care, people need them there and we absolutely appreciate them.”
The group banded together after seeing a story about the city of Seguin placing a call on social media to the community asking them to write letters or send cards to the hospital staff, Najarian said.
Seguin Mayor Donna Dodgen said the call out to show support for the hospital was a community effort.
“Positivity in social media is positively exquisite,” she said. “All of us feel helpless that we can’t do more, we can’t come up here and work, we can’t come up here and provide, but we can do what we can do. This was a little bit of a way we could say ‘love ya’ to the healthcare workers here at GRMC. It makes me cry and it makes me proud and it fills my cup.”
Guadalupe Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Robert Haynes, who led the crew around the hospital, said he was appreciative of the group for their visit.
“I want to thank these people that came out today to make a difference and show support for the staff that we have here,” he said.
Day in and day out for the past 18 months, hospital staff have battled on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and it is taking its toll, Haynes said.
He compared this third surge of COVID patients to a hurricane and how devastating the storms can be.
“Mentally, it is exhausting,” he said. “You come to work every day to care for patients and see the things you have to see day in and day out, it is battle. You have a lot of mental fatigue in healthcare right now.”
The support from the community, helps remind staff members that what they are doing doesn’t go unnoticed, Haynes said.
“If you’ve ever done athletics and you’re the team on the field, and you hear the fans cheering, that gives you a little extra something to make a difference,” he said. “When you see the community is involved and they realize what you are going through to care for them, it makes a difference.”
Rhonda Unruh, GRMC vice president of quality, sees how the pandemic continues to tax the staff.
“Burn out is very real,” she said. “You hear it a lot, ‘it’s been a long 18 months,’ and you hear conversations of your colleagues here at work, you hear stories of things they are having to witness. … You just worry they are going lose their passion and that is heartbreaking.”
The kindness shared by the community keeps them going, Unruh said.
“Seeing this kind of support means so much because it helps reinforce that yes, you are needed, you are not forgotten,” she said. “Maybe that one person writing a note or making a comment or making a sign will make the difference between someone staying at the bedside and somebody leaving.”
Following the ride, the group presented hospital staff with various gifts including a pair of plaques, one for the nurses and another for the doctors. Sunday’s parade was just one of many ways the community has rallied around the hospital staff, Guadalupe Regional Medical Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elaine Bennett said.
Area churches, businesses and organizations, like Teatro de Artes, have brought cards, candy, masks and food, including breakfast tacos, to GRMC, Bennett said.
“Knowing that somebody is is supporting you, the sky is the limit to do what they do and do what they do best,” she said. “(The hospital staff) cares about their patients and their community. Just knowing that the community is there to inspire them will give them that little burst of energy that they need to have to do their job.”
Najarian said it doesn’t take much to show your local healthcare providers their work is appreciated.
“Any little thing you can just to let them know, ‘we’re here for you,’” he said. “We can’t do what they do. What they do is above and beyond the call of duty and we thank them every day for that. It is not one size fits all, but every community decides what you need to do for yours if you want to reach out to others. It doesn’t matter what you can do, any small thing, write a card of thank you, go out and get some masks for people, ask people in your community to help. “
The power of prayer and kindness is just as powerful as any gift, Bennett said.
“Knowing that someone is praying for you has been remarkable,” she said. “Some of the things that have happened have been answers to prayers. Showing the love for one another, just being a person caring for another, that is really what we’re here for. It will continue to inspire and get us through this.”