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As COVID-19 hospitalizations decline, local nurses look back on pandemic ahead of Memorial Day weekend

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DERBY, Kan. (KSNW) – On Friday, Sedgwick County said there were no new COVID-19 hospitalizations last week providing huge relief to many health care workers as the long holiday weekend draws closer.

While many Kansans have been impacted one way or another by COVID-19, healthcare workers have spent over a year now in the frontlines. With more vaccines in the community, nurses with Rock Regional Hospital in Derby said they are excited to get to relax a little more.

“There were certainly highs and lows — more lows at times than highs,” said Roby Lester, a nurse with Rock Regional Hospital.

Rock Regional Hospital was only open for a year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “It was a lot of uncertainty, I know there was a lot of fear in the community and just not knowing what to expect,” said Lori Tackett, Chief Nursing Officer with Rock Regional Hospital.

“It was scary, really scary,” said Dani Galloup, an ICU nurse with Rock Regional Hospital.

It was the glimmers of hope that some nurses say they won’t forget. “To see people be on the brink of death and then come back and to be able to wheel them out of the hospital the huge hugs they were giving me,” recalled Galloup. “And then apologizing because we weren’t allowed to do that, it was so cool.”

As the vaccine became available, some nurses were hoping the finish line was close. “It was such a breath of fresh air, in my opinion, I was anxious to get the vaccine after what we had seen first hand,” said Tackett. “It was almost like hitting the finish line.”

The CEO of the hospital said the number of COVID patients was declining and after the mental toll from the pandemic, that was also a huge relief for employees.

“We were stripped of so much it feel like 2020 was taken away from us really,” Lester said.

“I remember almost feeling bad for celebrating certain things seeing what people have gone through and the lives die right before me,” said Galloup. “And then celebrating holidays, it’s just been odd but yeah I think this is the first one where we can really enjoy.”

While these nurses will be working over the holiday weekend, they are still excited to celebrate the extended weekend honoring the other heroes on the frontlines.

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