DERRY — The past year brought hope, heartache and much support for those who battled COVID-19 and their families.
And for those who cared for patients the past year at Parkland Medical Center, it was also about sharing the stories of success, compassion and how both hospital staff and patients formed bonds as the pandemic took hold.
Parkland hosted its "Parkland Perspectives" event recently, as a way for staff and former patients to join together to share stories of how the past year affected them, both on the job, and in their personal lives.
Eileen Keefe, chief nursing officer at Parkland, opened up the meeting, presented with attendees live and virtually, sharing her thoughts about the past year, saying the pandemic came on strong, with a short time to learn how to deal and care for patients, but learning along the way about how to treat patients and their families with respect.
"We responded from a place of compassion," Keefe said.
That included bringing on spiritual support from the community.
The Rev. Dr. Deborah Roof of First Parish Church in East Derry said she was amazed by Parkland's staff and when called upon, she came willingly and with as much support as she could offer to patients and families.
"I saw the professionalism and the compassion," Roof said. "Healing has a spiritual component. It doesn't matter what you call that higher power, that spirit that connects us. We just wanted to do what we could to support you as you supported the patients."
Roof added that dealing with the pandemic was new and often a challenge when she, as a spiritual leader, had to comfort patients and their families.
"They don't teach you that in seminary," she said. "There were people out there that needed a touchstone."
Parkland's CEO John Skevington said he felt the weight of what Parkland and other medical facilities were being challenged to do
"The biggest thing I'll take away in the early days was that we really didn't know a whole lot," he said, adding there was the unknown, the fear, but the commitment to provide the best care possible.
"The take away is the way this organization collectively responded," Skevington said. "It's a testament to the culture here at Parkland."
For Holly Fenn of Londonderry, knowing her husband Bryan was in good hands made all the difference.
Bryan Fenn was a COVID-19 patient at Parkland from Dec. 29, 2020, through Feb. 12, 2021.
His wife said the Parkland care for her husband was phenomenal.
That included making sure she got updates about her husband's condition during times she could not physically be by his side.
"To understand what was happening with my husband, you created mental pictures for me since I could not see him," she said
Holly Fenn added Parkland staff helped her sleep at night, knowing her husband was getting the best care.
"You held my husband's hand and I thank you. You held an iPad so I would get a glimpse of Bryan and I thank you," she said. "To those who helped me smile during difficult times, I thank you."
For Bryan Fenn, his time at Parkland gave him a great perspective on the level of care he received.
"I couldn't have asked for better care than what I got here," he said. "Everybody who took care of me is amazing, you never gave up."
Fenn added he didn't want to give up either
"Thank you for holding my hand," he said. "Nobody gave up on me."
Hospital staff members shared their own views of the past year and the impact it had on not only the patients and their families but on the caregivers.
Officials said the past year was a time like no other, unprecedented and an opportunity to not only provide care, but to be a source of connection and comfort.