Onslow Memorial holds luncheon for healthcare workers


JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — It’s been more than 11 months since North Carolina officials declared an emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Medical workers have spent those 11 months on the front lines of the emergency. On Thursday, despite the cold, rainy conditions, employees at Smithfield Foods gave out bags of food as a way of saying “thank you.”

The Smithfield Foods employees were dishing out as many pork chops as they were were hands of appreciation.

“This is a blessing, because a lot of us are still trying to eat, find shelter, find food,” said Sandra Brown, a certified nursing assistant at the hospital.

They’ve been helping their community fight the deadly virus, dealt with issues like shortages of personal protective equipment, the slow vaccine rollout and more. Those concerns were overshadowed by the sick people in their care.

“Anytime we get to that door, it’s not about us, it’s about the patient,” Brown said.

Brown and many other healthcare workers spent countless hours sitting by hospital beds, holding the hands of dozens of patients. She subbed for family members who were unable to be there because of the COVID restrictions.

“The first time I had a COVID patient, I just assured that person that it’s OK, things happen, situations happen, but we can do this, we can get through this,” Brown said.

The job can be draining. Doctors and nurses have felt the pandemic’s toll.

“I had several nurses just say that the agony that they go through when someone can’t come and be with their loved ones and there are the ones ther when the patient passes away,” said Lee Ann Thomas, executive director of the Onslow Memorial Hospital Foundation. “It’s very hard and emotionally straining.”

Now, Smithfield and other businesses offered a show of thanks. On this Thursday, it’s meals for the hospital wokrers.

“So the constant barage of all of these layers, we realize that there is a need to say ‘thank you’,” said Steve Evans, director of community development for Smithfield Foods.

Cold rain wasn’t intended to be on the menu, but it wasn’t drowning out the spirit of appreciation.

“Despite the rain and the cold, they showed up in full force,” Thomas said.

“Today I was not able to get any food, but they blessed us today with some food,” sad Brown said.

Brown said she is thankful for this moment of being on the receiving end of someone else’s care.

“It’s been different, but we can survive anything,” Brown said.

Organizers said they were in talks with leaders at other hospitals to show this same kind of gratitude to more nurses and doctors.

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