STURGEON BAY — In a gesture of love and support for the health care community, cars filled with well-wishers jammed the parking lot of Door County Medical Center (DCMC) on Friday evening, Jan. 21. Inside the nearby Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, a prayer vigil was held, offering words of prayer and gratitude to those who have battled through a two-year pandemic.
Sarah Gavin, coordinator of youth ministry for grades 6-12 at the Catholic parishes of Sturgeon Bay, and Pastor James Gomez of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, led the prayer service. It was simulcast on 107.7 FM radio for community members parked outside the medical center while others tuned in to “Let’s Go Door County” on Facebook.
“Over the last two years, our community and our medical center have struggled with the effects of COVID-19,” said Pastor Gomez. “The Door County Medical Center staff remains steadfast in our service to this community, but we find we are at a critical point in this long struggle. It is in our unity as a community that we will find the strength we need to continue to care for each other.”
According to Brian Stephens, CEO of DCMC, the facility is licensed for 25 beds. “But consistently having 20 to 30 inpatients for an extended period of time really stretches our staff thin,” he said. “Recently, around 50% of our inpatients have been COVID patients.”
Stephens said the medical center had to reopen its old intensive care unit (ICU) last week as an “overflow unit for our typical inpatients, while most of our main inpatients unit was filled with COVID patients.”
“It’s just been a tough, emotional time for our caregivers as they share in the grief that our patients and their families have been experiencing,” he added.
Community members parked in their cars were asked to remain in them with lights flashing throughout the prayer service. They were also invited to decorate their vehicles with messages of support for the staff and patients.
In his opening remarks, Pastor Gomez said that “there is power in presence.”
“During these incredibly difficult times, we may not know what to do or say to support our frontline workers. And tonight, your presence is speaking volumes,” he said. “Door County Medical Center’s mission is to further the healing ministry of Jesus Christ by improving the health and well-being of our community, especially those in need. Its vision is to deliver compassionate, quality care that inspires a healthy community. We have all been patients at DCMC and have experienced the compassion and care they provide daily. We are very fortunate to live in a community with such a great hospital.”
Gavin told those listening to the prayer service that hearing about the challenges health care workers are facing “encourages us to make sure we are doing our part to keep people safe and healthy.”
“When I heard about the situation at DCMC, I realized how important it is now that we show the entire staff at DCMC that we genuinely care about them and their well-being,” she said. “Our hospital staff needs our love, support and prayers to keep them going.”
Two Scripture passages were recited by Andrew Konop, a senior at Sturgeon Bay High School and a confirmation student at Corpus Christi Parish.
“For the hospital staff who can hear me right now, I hope by the number of people gathered tonight, by the number of prayers you are receiving, I sincerely hope you feel the many compassionate and comforting community members. You are not alone in this,” Gavin said after the reading of Scripture.
“We have all been affected in such a profound way by COVID-19. We often experience a variety of emotions: anger, sadness, confusion, fear, anxiety, and maybe even despair. I know there have been a few times during the past two years that I have felt like I have lost hope,” she added.
“There were days during lockdown, that I could not even get out of bed because I felt hopeless and alone. I even began to doubt God’s presence in all of this,” Gavin said. “The truth is, we can’t live without hope. And while our feelings are valid, being steadfast in our faith will help us. It is in these times that we need to remember that God is always with us, ready to comfort and strengthen us.”
She noted that “God is not far from you even if your mind tells you that it is hopeless.”
“Pope Francis tells us that hope is a gift from heaven,” Gavin concluded. “Jesus’ hope is different than optimism, the hope that Jesus offers is a reminder that, from the grave, he brings life.”