Heroes tend to be humble. Perhaps that humility inspires them to their selfless acts. “I was just doing my job,” we’ve heard from many of our medical professionals, who have been named AIM Media Texas’ Rio Grande Valley Citizens of the Year.
The parent company of The Brownsville Herald, The Monitor, Valley Morning Star, El Extra and other Valley publications annually selects a person or group that best exemplifies good citizenship and service to the community. This year our front-line healthcare workers were such an obvious choice that instead of asking readers to nominate people for the award, we asked for statements detailing how those workers have helped our community fight a once-in-a-lifetime threat to our health, our economy and our way of life.
Yes, they are doing their jobs, but perhaps it’s all the more impressive that they chose a career that saves lives, often investing years of study and tens of thousands of dollars — some joining the military because they couldn’t afford medical training otherwise.
Because of their training, Medical workers knew what they were up against. This was the kind of stuff they write scary movies about: an invisible killer that could infect and eat away at them at any time. Their jobs meant that almost every person they encountered could carry the virus. They knew they could bring it home on their clothing and sicken their own families. They constantly were tested, knowing the exercise was moot; overburdened labs could take more than a week to provide the results, and the workers could have been infected in the interim.
Hospitals were filled beyond capacity, forcing officials to find alternative sites to place the sick. Bodies stacked up in refrigerated trailers awaiting attention from overwhelmed morgues and mortuaries.
And yet they kept showing up, ready to fight another day.
Our front-line workers deserve to know that the community they serve is grateful, and residents answered our call to offer thanks. Many gave details of how our medical professionals found ways to go beyond their already vital duties.
“My Dad would tell me about certain nurses … he said he slept better knowing that they were there because there were days he’d be so full of anxiety that he’d be scared to close his eyes,” one wrote. Other writers reminded us of the paramedics and emergency workers who often were the first to treat COVID-19 patients.
The staff of one doctor noted that he tended to his regular patients every day, then headed to the hospital — “off to COVID land, as he called it.”
Another doctor encouraged family members to bring home-cooked meals to patients “in order to make them feel less homesick.”
One doctor, Juan Manuel Ortiz, organized Meals for Essential Workers to supply home cooking for his fellow physicians so they wouldn’t have to leave their posts.
Several treated patients at their homes when hospital beds weren’t available.
Such actions aren’t in any job description. But they exemplify our medics’ ability to exceed the already heavy demands of saving lives. They are the kinds of heroic acts that make our healthcare professionals our RGV Citizens of the Year.