Photo: Pictured above, local firefighters honor healthcare workers at Riverview Regional Medical Center during a shift change at the hospital on Wednesday May 20. (Katie Bohannon/Messenger)
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer/Photographer
In 1974, U.S. President Gerald Ford introduced the first EMS Appreciation Week to celebrate emergency medical service practitioners and their dedication to their communities.
Nearly 50 years later, local first responders chose to celebrate others rather than themselves, recognizing the women and men who sacrifice so much to ensure that Gadsden residents remain safe and healthy.
On May 20 and 21, local firefighters, police officers and EMS workers lined the parking lots of Riverview Regional Medical Center and Gadsden Regional Medical Center to shower healthcare workers with the same gratitude first responders often receive.
Police cars and fire trucks with banners reading “Thank you!” were parked along the main entrances of Riverview and Gadsden Regional on Wednesday and Thursday, while first responders lined sidewalks and walkways.
As healthcare workers exited the hospitals during a shift change, first responders greeted them with messages of encouragement and thankfulness, applauding their service and commitment.
“We just want to make sure we’re giving back to the community and make sure we’re not just accepting the grace,” said Gadsden Fire Chief Stephen Carroll. “We want to give some grace. That’s the whole purpose of this.”
Carroll explained that the fire department, EMS program and local hospitals all play critical roles in emergency medicine. Each department relies on one another to perform its responsibilities to ensure that the entire process operates successfully. Carroll noted that trust and confidence in each other is essential, while simultaneously helping and respecting all departments creates a strong relationship united in protecting and serving the community.
“We think it’s time to let people know what we really think,” said Carroll. “You work with somebody so much, for so long, and you really don’t say ‘thank you’ for what they do. But when you have a special event like this, it gives you an opportunity to say ‘thank you.’”
Carroll emphasized that now more than ever, an unbreakable bond between EMS and healthcare workers is crucial. During to the COVID-19 pandemic, EMS ensures that patients arrive safely at the hospital. Carroll recognizes that when healthcare workers take over, the road to recovery for those patients is just beginning. As a man dedicated to protecting lives, Carroll understands the energy required to care for others day and night.
Together, the fire department, EMS workers and healthcare professionals strive to ensure that Gadsden thrives without compromising the health or safety of its residents. The events in May displayed the departments working as one to serve its community with conviction and dedication, recognizing the first responders and healthcare workers who daily risk their lives to protect others. As first responders honored healthcare workers, they reminded each other that a simple “thank you” represents a respect that will never be uprooted and an understanding quite unlike any other.
“I think if nothing else, [the event showed healthcare workers] we understand where they are and what they’re doing,” said Carroll. “They understand us, and we have a better working relationship with them. Making them feel better [is important]. Everyone is under stress from this situation. It’s not to focus on us doing it, it’s to focus on them and thank them for what they do. We don’t get to say that enough.”