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Highland staff reflect on year of pandemic

Health care workers at Highland Community Hospital remembered those lost due to COVID-19 with a candlelight service Thursday.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and the first COVID-19 case was reported in Mississippi.

In Pearl River County, there have been more than 4,200 COVID-19 cases and over 130 deaths since the start of the pandemic, Highland Community Hospital Administrator Bryan Maxie said as he spoke to hospital staff Thursday.

“A lot of these people are kin to our workers and a lot are friends to us,” he said.

The virus has not gone away, but with case numbers in the state declining and more vaccinations being administered each week, hospital employees are seeing a light of hope.

“I feel like there’s hope,” said Jesse Johnson, ER Unit Secretary. “It’s been a long journey—a lot of stress, a lot of tears, a lot of fight.”

Chief Nursing Officer Suzanne Wilson said it was touching to reflect on the past year.

“I never thought I’d live through something like this in my lifetime,” she said.
RN Stephanie Hudnall said a year into the pandemic, she doesn’t remember what it was like to work without wearing a face mask.

ER Director Jessica Peterson helped organize the candlelight service.

“Reflection allows us to see what our fears were and how we’ve overcome them, how we’ve grown as a team and a hospital,” she said. “We feel like there is hope at the end of the tunnel.”

The pandemic has changed how hospital staff work together, said Peterson, and made it clear how much the various departments rely on one another.

“We in the ER rely on respiratory and housekeeping and the lab,” she said.

During the service, Pastor Tony Lambert reflected on the community transformation caused by the virus, as people began delivering groceries to elderly neighbors, providing free childcare for health care workers and making homemade masks when PPE was unavailable.

“I watched our community choose to run toward the fire instead of away from the fire,” said Lambert.

Reverend Donald Hart had a moment of silent reflection for those who have died from COVID. Then he asked the health care workers to celebrate themselves and applaud the sacrifices they’ve made.

“We can only imagine the selfless sacrifices you made over the course of this year,” said Hart.

Thursday brought back a lot of memories, good and bad, said Maxie. He believes staff are doing great considering the challenges they’ve faced.

“I think we’re extremely blessed to have the people working here that we do.”