Local nurses organize event to celebrate, mourn those lost to COVID-19
A group of several nurses, community members and family members who lost loved ones to COVID-19 took part in a paddle out at the Santa Barbara Harbor Saturday morning to let the ocean heal them.
A nurse from Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital organized the event to give nurses and family members close to COVID-19 patients a place to mourn and reflect on the time they spent with their patients.
Nearly 20 participants gathered at the boat launch at 11 a.m. Nurses handed out sunflowers to the paddlers, and put signs on their kayaks and stand up paddle boards. One read, “Nurses are Earth angels.”
They even organized acupuncture and hot stones services for the nurses after the paddle out.
“It’s a little bit different for us nurses,” said Nichol Clark, the clinical resource nurse at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital who organized the event. “We spend way more time with the patients than we’re used to spending. We’ll take care of someone for four weeks to six weeks and we learn to love them.
“We become their surrogate family because no visitors are coming in and when we lose them…”
Ms. Clark told the News-Press that hospitals’ privacy laws make nurses unable to talk about their patients, and when they lose someone to COVID-19, they don’t have an outlet to discuss their sorrow. Even when it comes to nurses’ spouses or family members, Ms. Clark said it’s hard for them to listen to the sad stories every night.
Her goal for the paddle out was to celebrate and mourn those patients.
“Imagine you’re taking care of someone 40 hours a week for six weeks in a row and you’re responsible for every breath and you’re responsible to make sure they take that next breath after their last breath,” she said. “There’s nowhere for that grief to go. We don’t have a way to say goodbye to these people.”
In addition, Ms. Clark said the paddle out serves as a way to let the families of the patients know that they’re thinking of them, even though they can’t mourn with them.
“We just wanted to find a way to say goodbye and let the families know that their people mattered to us,” she said.
Peggy Mathis attended the paddle out to mourn those lost and let the nurses know she’s rooting for them.
“We are here to support nurses who have gone through such hard times when they lose their patients,” she told the News-Press. “They become so attached to their patient that it’s like family to them, and it’s just been so traumatic for the nurses, so we’re here to honor them today.”
Stand up paddle boards and kayaks were donated to the paddlers by Paddle Sports. Luisa Hyatt, one of the owners, said seven paddle boards and three kayaks were donated.
“It was an easy thing to do,” she told the News-Press. “The owner group of Paddle Sports was like, ‘Absolutely, have them fill waivers out and off they go.’”
Ms. Hyatt said the event was organized mere days ago.
“They’ve been holding so much, these nurses, and they just knew they got to a point where they needed to be able to come together in a way that was away from the hospital arena, and what better way to be out on the water?” the owner said. “They need to learn how to replenish themselves. They’re giving so much right now for our community.”
She addressed the group of nurses and family members as they set out on the water, saying, “So all you nurses who are absolutely unbelievable in what you’ve been holding for our community: We are so grateful. From those of us who are not walking in your shoes and not in there seeing what you’re seeing and holding all the emotions and mental capacity of what you guys are holding — thank you. Let the ocean heal you today.”