WOONSOCKET, RI — The bond that many first responders and frontline health care workers have formed during the new coronavirus health crisis is one of trust and togetherness in the face of tragedy.
After Woonsocket and North Smithfield police and fire crews held a lights-and-sirens salute to Landmark Medical Center in April, Landmark certified nursing assistant Ashley Desales said she began thinking of ways to return the heartfelt and very appreciated gesture.
She started with handing out the "Bracelets of Hope" that her 8- and 10-year-old daughters made to each first responder who walked into the emergency room on a call. Over the past two weeks, Desales then compiled all the photos of those bracelet-donning firefighters, emergency medical service personnel and police officers — along with a few special messages she was sent from Rhode Island local celebrities — and put together a tribute video from Landmark Medical Center staff to those who know as well as anyone else what it's like to run toward the challenges of a pandemic when much of society is safely at home.
"Now, more than ever, we really have to lean on each other," Desales told Patch. "They are communicating with the hospitals more and they are communicating with us. We know we have to have each other's backs.
"We know (as health care workers) we are not in this alone," she added. "We are in this together."
Desales said she bought a "thank you" sign for her house and one for the Landmark emergency room entrance, but before hanging it up at the hospital she had staff members record short personal messages for the first responders. She also solicited submissions over social media, and received them back from New England musicians, radio personalities and the Pawtucket Red Sox.
"I just went on my Facebook and Instagram and messaged anyone and anybody I came in contact with over the years," she said. "I didn't know who, exactly, might get back to me. But I got a huge response. I thought I would just take a shot and ask them. I wasn't expecting the response that I got."
Desales said she added to the video until it was up to about four minutes, and then posted it for the first responders to see. Within hours, it had been re-posted by "quite a bit" of area departments, including those in Woonsocket, Narragansett, North Smithfield and Warwick.
As the state heads toward the end of the stay-at-home order starting Saturday after six weeks, and the phased-in reopening of the economy, Desales said she is confident that first responders and health care workers are prepared for whatever comes next in the battle against the virus.
"I feel like Rhode Island has been great with the response and that we've been ahead of it the whole time," she said. "I think we've all done a really great job. I have no questions or concerns.
"We're well-prepared and we've been kept in the loop from the beginning. We're always prepared for the worst. But I don't feel the worst has happened, or will ever happen. But, if it does, we'll all be ready for it together."
(If you have a story of a local business, organization or individual lending a hand to those in need during the new coronavirus pandemic, or lift spirits amid social distancing and isolation, Patch wants to let people in your community know about it. Contact Scott Souza at Scott.Souza@patch.com to help us spread the positives during this uncertain time.)
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