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The Health Collaborative is partnering with Cincinnati Zoo and Hamilton County to offer Healthcare Workers Appreciation Days at the Zoo this weekend.

The Zoo is offering healthcare workers FREE admission starting on World Health Day (April 7) through April 10.

A select group of healthcare heroes will be honored at the zoo this Thursday, April 7 for their tremendous resolve and dedication to our communities, and to upholding the principles of public health during an unprecedented global crisis.

Melissa Schumacher, a Nurse Manager in the St. Elizabeth Pulmonary Unit, knows too well the face of the pandemic and its difficulties. As one of the Zoo honorees, we asked her to give us an idea of what that has meant to herself as well as her patients and their families.

Melissa Schumacher
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Q: Thanks for your work, Melissa! What is your title at St. E., and how many years have you been working in healthcare?

A:  I am Nurse Manager for the 3C Pulmonary Unit, and have been in healthcare 18 years.

Q: What is something you love most about your work?

A: Helping patients and making them smile (they always remember how you made them feel).

Q: What has your experience been like working in healthcare during COVID?

A: In a few words: isolated, scary, overwhelming, frustrating, and lonely.

Q: Do you have any notable stories or stats related to COVID that you can share?

A: I have so many. I would say [one that stands out is] getting a letter from a patient who almost died several times during his month-long admission for COVID. He had made it home for Christmas with his son, sent us a picture of his family and said he was starting back to work light duty. He said he didn’t think he would live to see another holiday but because of the care he received he is home and celebrating.

The stats are crazy: I worked with COVID patients from March 13, 2020 and still work with them today. The numbers are lower now, but there were days where there was no end in sight. We lost more patients in the past two years than I lost in my first 16 years combined of being a nurse. Death and dying was not new, but COVID made it routine and that broke my heart. Watching people being taken to the ICU to be intubated and knowing their chances of survival were slim was difficult. Calling their families for them to say goodbye before intubating is heartbreaking. There are no words.

Q: What is your favorite animal or exhibit at the Zoo?

A: Giraffes and feeding them.

“The past few years have been challenging, and nowhere have those challenges been greater felt than with the heroic work playing out on the front lines and behind the scenes in our healthcare community,” said Craig Brammer, CEO of The Health Collaborative. “Our healthcare community put everything else aside to come together for the good of our region. And I believe, because of these people who put others’ health above their own, we’re coming out of this crisis stronger for it.”

Schumacher and seven of her healthcare peers from across the region’s health systems will be honored this Thursday morning at the Cincinnati Zoo, with a program and proclamation by Hamilton County officials. CLICK HERE for more about Zoo Days: Healthcare Workers Appreciation Days, and CLICK HERE to read the press release.