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Tulsans of the Year: Health care workers are putting their lives on the line every day to save others

Tulsans of the Year: Health care workers are putting their lives on the line every day to save others

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Health care workers

Frontline workers James Burns, RN, BSN, Saint Francis Health System (left); Tulsa Fire Department Chief Michael Baker; Tulsa Health Department Division Chief of Prevention, Preparedness and Response Kelly VanBuskirk; Respiratory Therapist Brittany Ullrich from Ascension St. John Medical Center; Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart; Kayla Stack, EMSA medic and recipient of the 2020 Star of Life award; Dr. Guy Sneed, chief medical officer of Hillcrest HealthCare System; Nick Coffman, EMSA paramedic; Kelsey Two Bears, certified physician assistant at Sapulpa Indian Health Center of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Department of Health, stand outside Tulsa Central Library.

At the outset of the pandemic, health care workers were showered with gift baskets, parades, encouraging roadside signs and impressive F-16 fly-bys at hospitals.

However, those expressions of thanks have waned, and the COVID-19 hospital admissions and virus-related deaths continue.

As Jake Henry Jr., president and CEO of Saint Francis Health System, noted, these frontline heroes “are exhausted after wearing personal protective equipment for a bustling 12-hour shift over and over again.

“When they get in their car and drive home, they are truly spent,” Henry said. “When they enter unmasked apathy in public places — stores, restaurants and public gatherings — they feel defeated.”

During the past few months, we have told you the stories of their harrowing work.

And we told you about doctors and nurses who contracted the disease themselves before adequate protections and regulations were in place. Some worked from home offering virtual appointments to continue helping others.

Now, the daily statistics show we need our brave health care workers more than ever.

For those truly devoted to their calling, praise and recognition are fleeting fancies. Work continues in the trenches when no one is watching.

But we shouldn't forget to continue our expressions of thanks for these workers — our family members, friends and neighbors — who are putting their lives on the line to save our lives.

As a group, we honor them as Tulsans of the Year for their work fighting this unprecedented deadly virus.

Tulsa World Magazine's 2020 Tulsans of the Year

In a year filled with challenges and heartbreak, these people gave us hope.

Read about the other Tulsans of the Year

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