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Most Heroes Don't Wear Capes. Kentucky Healthcare Workers Honored

Karyn Czar, WUKY

While the pandemic is not over, Governor Andy Beshear took time Wednesday night to thank hundreds of healthcare workers in Morehead who've been in the trenches since the first case of COVID 19 was reported in the state. “You all engaged in one of the most remarkable acts of heroism that I've ever seen."

An emotional Beshear told them “The hardest thing I've ever done in my life is to read out the ages and the counties and the genders of those we lost over and over every day. But I showed up every day because I didn't want anybody else to have to do that. But you were sitting there holding their hands and you knew their names and you were going to talk to their family members and that is something so special that we needed you for above and beyond your regular jobs. You are all superheroes.”

The Governor was joined by Dr. Steven Stack, who took the role of Kentucky public health Commissioner just weeks before the pandemic hit Kentucky in March of 2020. “We're really here to recognize you, so we get to channel the great output of the work that you have all done. It's really weird because up until March last year, I would have been in an Emergency Department," Stack said "I would have been on the front lines with all of you. So as much as this has been difficult and hard, and as much as I've had this incredible privilege to get to serve with and advise a governor and support a state, it does feel in a way like I've been on the sidelines throughout this. Because I would have been in the Emergency Department with all of you. So I want to thank you very much for what you have done.”

And the Governor’s Senior Advisor, Rocky Adkins, gave a personal thank you that hit close to home. “My father,” Adkins paused, choking back tears “started his journey of whipping COVID at St Clair.  The treatment that he got at St Claire was the treatment that had to be performed by the experts to make sure an 85-year-old man who contracted this terrible, terrible virus in a 24 hour period was flat on his back. And if any of you are in this room that treated my father, thank you from the bottom of my heart because I want to report to you your good work. My father has fully recovered. My father is on a tractor. My father is plowing, discing, and raising a half-acre garden and doing it without any oxygen whatsoever. My father is healed because of your good work, and I appreciate that from the bottom of my heart."

The accolades and thank you's continued for everyone in the room. But there was a special moment for one registered nurse who has worked at the city's COVID 19 testing site every day since the first swab was taken. St. Claire HealthCare President and CEO Donald H. Lloyd II clued the crowd as to her identity by saying “she has seen over a hundred thousand nostrils, and she has exposed herself almost 3,000 times to COVID-positive patients. We all know her as the girl in scrubs that wears cowboy boots.” Nikita Gibbs with St Claire Health told me that was the moment she knew she was being honored with the Service Above Self Award. “When they said the boots because I do wear my boots with my scrubs all the time.”

Gibbs said the journey has been a difficult one. But like all her counterparts, one she felt called to do. “It was definitely pretty terrifying at first because I do have a four year now at home and she's my pride and joy. So taking that home to her, I was definitely on edge about that. I just wanted to make sure that I help serve my community and the best way that I could.”

Nurse Gibbs and the other health care professionals that I spoke with last night said the best way that you can say thank you is by getting vaccinated. “I really encourage you to get vaccinated, because it is not just for you but the people around you and your loved ones”…“All my family is vaccinated. I have strongly supported it. Every friend that I talk to, I strongly support getting it. And one of the biggest things my patients say is, 'well, I'm not getting it. I want to see others being guinea pigs,' I'm their guinea pig”…“That's it. You got to get vaccinated.”

And from all of us here at WUKY to all of you frontline medical workers, we say thank you.