Bringing hope to hospital | News, Sports, Jobs

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Geisinger-Lewistown nurse, Ashley Freed, holds two Christmas trees used to decorated rooms of COVID patients as a donation for those affected by the virus.

LEWISTOWN — The frontline staff at Geisinger Lewistown Hospital are always thinking of others. When they’re not at a patient’s bedside, they’re coming up with other ways to serve their patients.

Ashley Freed is a frontline healthcare hero who cares for COVID-19 patients as a registered nurse at GLH. Ashley organized a project to provide a decorated artificial Christmas tree in every COVID-19 patient room throughout the hospital. She brought her colleagues together and garnered the support from the community to make this happen. Here’s her story in her words.

“I came up with the idea when I was one of my nightshift breaks. I was looking at the hospital from outside, thinking about how bare the windows looked. The idea came to me – ‘why not put a lit tree in every patient room.’ I thought the trees could be decorated and shared with every COVID patient since they aren’t able to be home enjoying their own with family.

“I asked some of my coworkers what they thought about the idea and they thought it was special. So, I posted a request to a local community social media page. I asked the community to help bring Christmas into the hospital. The community response was overwhelming. I received a tremendous number of messages from people who were willing to help. These people are so generous and kind! They not only donated trees, but batteries, ornaments, and decorations. My cousin delivered 110 hand stamped Christmas cards for patients. She even slipped in 50 of those cards especially for the frontline staff. They went above and beyond my expectations.

“With the help of my nurse teammate, Ashley McMurtrie, we delivered and decorated 43 trees to GLH on the first Saturday in December. The trees went to the hospital units where our COVID patients are being treated. We still have 50 trees left, ready to put on display in patient rooms of incoming COVID positive residents of our community,” Freed said.

Each tree goes home with the patient and before a new patient arrives, a new tree is placed in the room and lit for the patient and their care team to enjoy.

“Our patients’ eyes light up when they see them. They have been so grateful. It’s amazing to see how a small lit up tree can boost the spirits of very sick people,” she said.

Many of the patients are down in spirit and alone. The trees put a smile on their face. Just one smile can make a nurse feel like they are doing right by them.

Freed has been working on the GLH COVID unit since the pandemic began. Now that there is great community spread and high inpatient numbers, she returns home after her shift on most days feeling defeated.

“I’m tired — but more than that, my heart breaks for our patients,” Freed said. “I ache for them because they can’t have their family with them at the bedside. I felt that I needed to do something, even if the gesture was just a small lit-up Christmas tree. I wanted to see them smile. These patients deserve more than just a care plan or medicine. They deserve to know that they aren’t alone in a 20×20 room and that someone out there is thinking of them. Our entire community is thinking of them — and this project proved that.”

The message that she’d like to share with the community is this: It is imperative that we work together as a community and do our part. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. The holidays are hard to stay away from your families but COVID does not discriminate. Anyone can catch this virus. Just because someone might be young and healthy does not mean they are immune to this disease.

“The healthcare system is begging for your cooperation,” she said. “Please stay home. Please wear your mask. Please wash your hands. Do the right thing and save a life!”


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