As the COVID-19 pandemic has gripped our communities, our staff at NYU Winthrop Hospital has gone so far above the call of duty, their caring and devotion is almost beyond words. But words also cannot describe the outpouring of support that local businesses and members of our communities have shown to our embattled hospital staff. It’s made clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we are all in this together. We’re fighting for the health of our loved ones, our neighbors and the very fabric of the life we have woven together as Long Islanders.
It took only days—not weeks—before our communities began to rally to provide support. It started in small waves with deliveries of donuts and bagels, rainbows and smiley faces from local schoolchildren and letters of encouragement from community members. Those waves soon became a crescendo of goodwill beyond anything we could have ever imagined.
“It’s what keeps us going,” our emergency department nurse manager said.
The outpouring of support became a daily morale-booster for our brave front-line workers, keeping them pushing against so many odds to make sure every patient was getting the best possible care. With many donations, we saw tears of gratitude well up in the eyes of our very tired medical staff.
Where could we even begin to acknowledge those who have rallied to our cause? It would be impossible, because the donations have poured in from every corner of our communities. There are the Garden City residents that raised more than $71,000 through GoFundMe to provide meals to NYU Winthrop staff. That initiative also supported local businesses, who like our hospital, are experiencing times of need.
More than 35 local restaurants were tapped for this effort. A World Trade Center children’s fund was among the first to organize outreach for meals; who more than they to understand the losses our communities are facing with this pandemic? And while our staff’s go-to neighborhood restaurants, in the immediate vicinity of the hospital, may currently have echoes of emptiness, if the staff can’t get to them, the restaurants’ fundraising efforts ensure the staff are not forgotten. Importantly, our medical staff has also received personal protection equipment from local nonprofits and community organizations.
But there’s no price tag you can place on the thoughtfulness that has gone into so many efforts. One day our security warned me that our fences had been infiltrated—with Stars of Hope—some young elves having adorned our fences with hand-made stars of inspiration. And many of you heard about the seven-year-old who sold his comic books to raise $9 to help us find a coronavirus cure. The letters from young members of our communities are perhaps the most touching, and we have showcased them by a key hospital entrance to serve as a daily reminder to our staff that they are helping more than the elderly, middle-aged and young adults—they’re helping the grandfather of a young child, the aunt, the child’s schoolteacher, the supermarket cashier, the local fireman—again, the fabric of our Long Island society.
While NYU Winthrop gives our heartfelt thanks to our communities for their support, I know that, more than anything, you are all thinking of our COVID patients, and every act of kindness you make toward our hospital resonates among the halls where we care for them. When our chief of nursing realized that isolated patients did not have enough phone and iPad chargers to keep them connected to loved ones, it took less than 48 hours for a box of excess chargers of every type to be donated to NYU Winthrop.
Many members of our communities will now be sharing their own rituals of thanks, observing Passover and Easter holidays over the next week, while hopefully maintaining isolation guidelines. It made me think to share with you a special act of kindness—the type made possible by you, our Long Island communities, whose daily thoughtfulness keeps up the morale of our medical staff.
A priest from a Greek Orthodox church on Long Island wanted to anoint a parishioner who was very ill in our hospital with coronavirus, but obviously that was out of the question. Instead, after calls and much coordination between our security, front desk, and nursing staff, the blessed oil was hand-delivered to the hospital and, ever so carefully, made its way to patient care. There, the nurses anointed the ill patient—carrying out the will of the clergyman—the medical staff going above and beyond the call of duty in caring for each and every member of our community as though we are one Long Island family.
I thank each and every one of you for your support.
—Dr. Joseph Greco
Chief of hospital operations, NYU Winthrop Hospital