Stories of a hospital pulling together during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic punctuated the blessing and dedication Tuesday of a Tau Monument at Franciscan Health Mooresville, honoring the physicians, nurses and countless other staff for their bravery, innovation, and compassion.
Trish Weber, CEO of the Mooresville and Carmel campuses, noted that since Franciscan Health Mooresville saw its first COVID-positive patient in the emergency room on March 16, 2020, staff had cared for 4,618 COVID-positive patients in the ER and inpatient settings.
“You all just kept coming back when you could have said, ‘I’m done, I’m checking out.’ And you didn’t. You came back day after day after day and cared for the patients that needed us most and cared for each other,” Weber said.
Standing outside of the ER entrance, the monument includes a bronze, double-sided sculpture of the distinct Tau, the symbol St. Francis of Assisi shared as he ministered to the sick. Local artist Ryan Feeney, known for his bronze sculpture of quarterback Peyton Manning outside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, created the Tau monument and an identical one unveiled in May at Franciscan Health Indianapolis.
“We grew united as a team, not of just nurses, but as a Franciscan family and together we battled COVID-19 and proved as a united front that we could do it,” said Julie Lavender, ICU nursing manager.
Among those in the audience for the dedication were Sue and Bob Collins. Sue’s brother Jack was one of the first COVID patients in the ICU at Mooresville, eventually dying from the virus. Lori Warner, director of patient care services, read a letter from the family, describing the comfort that the ICU team provided in Jack’s final hours. A nurse who cared for him placed her phone next to Jack, so family could talk with him and let him know how loved he was.
“I will never be able to thank the staff in the ICU that night to the degree that they deserve,” said the letter read by Warner. The family was given a photograph of hospital staff holding hands outside of Jack’s room in a prayer vigil.
Daniel Gay, DO, hospitalist with Franciscan Physician Network IMPACT Center, said his father was a physician during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and like that era, medical staff worked to understand the unknown.
“It was a very trying time. It was scary. It was hard, and it required a lot of intestinal fortitude and dedication to get the job done,” Dr. Gay said, mentioning that the respiratory therapists deserve a huge thanks for their efforts.
Tara Wilson, clinical coordinator for respiratory therapy, said, “As respiratory therapists, we were thrust right into the heart of the crisis, tasked with the responsibility of caring for patients struggling to breathe, their lungs ravaged by this merciless virus.”
Wilson noted the outpouring of support from the community, including notes of encouragement from scout troops and meals delivered by businesses.
Support also came from Tonn and Blank Construction, part of Franciscan Alliance. Weber said the company “absolutely stopped building in order to respond to the hospital’s needs during the pandemic.” Workers did everything from making intubation boxes and face shields to installing ventilation systems in rooms, working with the Department of Homeland Security to build temporary triage units and set up drive-up testing units.
“We all had one goal, and that was to use our collective resources to ensure that we could continue to provide healthcare in all the communities that we serve. So in true Franciscan fashion, we took a breath, we prayed and then we got to work,” said Eric Wise, Vice President – Central Indiana (Tonn and Blank Construction).
“One of the most amazing things that stood out to me was the resiliency of the human spirit – everyone’s bravery, resourcefulness and compassion that came from all frontline workers, all support staff, it was truly amazing to see,” Wise added.
Fr. James Barrand performed the blessing, observing the depiction of the Franciscan cross with two hands, the hands of God and the hands of the caregiver, reaching down to those who need assistance. “It’s such a beautiful image of what our Christian faith is, what our walk as medical care providers are is to reach out to one another,” he said.
Funding for the memorials in Mooresville and Indianapolis came solely from the generous donations of grateful former patients, Franciscan physicians, medical and support staff, and corporate partners.