As the leader of Adventist Health in this community, I am incredibly proud of our healthcare heroes who have carried the weight of caring for our community on their shoulders.
Our teams in the emergency room and the hospital, from physicians to nurses to respiratory therapists and every one of the support staff, come to work with courage and compassion. Each one deserves our admiration and gratitude on this National First Responders Day and beyond.
In addition to these heroes, there are many other first responders who have played different roles through the pandemic.
I recently had the opportunity to tour several of our primary care clinics in Bakersfield and talked with the physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, medical assistants and front office personnel.
They, too, have continued to show up for work, taking care of their patients with compassion and diligence.
Remember, during these unprecedented times, cancer, diabetes and heart disease have not gone on vacation. These chronic conditions are not on any stay-at-home orders — far from it.
Patients with autoimmune disorders or other chronic conditions — who depend on their primary care doctors to diagnose, create care plans and navigate their way to specialists, testing or surgeries — need these heroes in primary care clinics across our community.
And sometimes, the healthcare heroes at our clinics also wear superhero capes and transform into first responders.
Here are two incredible stories — one from our Adventist Health Physician Network Service Center and another at our Adventist Health Medical Office in Wasco — that demonstrate why we also celebrate these teams on National First Responders Day:
In good hands
On a hot summer day, Veronica Cardiel arrived to work at the Adventist Health Physician Network’s (AHPN) Service Center with no reason to believe her day would stand out among others in her career. She sat in her chair, donned her headset and began handling caller issues.
On a typical shift, Cardiel and her team can receive upwards of 800 phone calls in total, but on this day, one frightening call stood out among the others.
From beyond Bakersfield’s borders, an AHPN patient needed medical assistance and called the AHPN Service Center, reaching Cardiel, instead of 9-1-1.
“I need help,” the caller said.
Cardiel asked him what was going on, and the man mentioned that he was on his way to work but was complaining of a shortness of breath and tightness in his chest. So Cardiel opened his chart and noticed the caller was on medications which may have been causing a severe reaction and was under a doctor’s care for anxiety and heart disease.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” he said.
It turned out that the caller was experiencing a medical emergency in Pixley, Calif., pulling off Highway 99, unable to drive.
But thanks to Cardiel and her coworkers, Marie Irwing and Renee Smith, the Pixley substation of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department was contacted and that caller received the medical help he needed, all the while receiving emotional support from our call center team turned first responders.
Being a good neighbor
In Mark 12:31, it says: “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater …”
Being a good neighbor means always having your door open to others, and nowhere is this hospitality more important than in a healthcare setting.
When a woman new to the area recently rushed into the Adventist Health Medical Office in Wasco with a bleeding child in her arms, the staff didn’t hesitate to treat the stranger like they would a cherished friend.
“She didn’t know where to go. She was extremely upset, crying and asking for help,” says Maritza Orozco-Robles, who has worked as a family nurse practitioner at the Wasco location for 16 years.
Along with receptionist Monica Vasquez, lead medical assistant Claudia Sanchez and medical assistant Melisa Duran, Orozco-Robles comforted the worried mother and older brother while treating the 6-year-old patient, who had sustained injuries while exiting a bus.
“We did not ask for his name. We did not ask his mom for his insurance. We saw someone in need and jumped into action. That’s my team,” said Orozco-Robles of their staff’s commitment to serving the community.
By the time the family left, the boy was stable and his injuries bandaged, and the family’s anxiety and tears were replaced with grateful smiles.
And what did the child’s mother say to those first responders, who just happen to work in a medical office?
“We walked into the right clinic.”
So, the next time you see your primary care physician or the clinic team members, please share your gratitude for their Sacred Work on behalf of your health and the health of your friends and neighbors.
Tell them they are to be celebrated as first responders, too.
Daniel Wolcott is the president of Adventist Health Kern County Care Delivery.
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