The last year has been a difficult one for many healthcare providers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Jessica Cantrell, a clinical lead nurse in the critical care unit at The University of Toledo Medical Center, that was as true professionally as it was personally.
Two weeks before the birth of their first child, Cantrell’s boyfriend died unexpectedly, leaving her a suddenly single mother of a baby girl who would soon return to caring for COVID-19 patients during some of the pandemic’s most challenging times.
Cantrell’s perseverance and dedication to both her patients and family were recognized on Friday with the June CareGivers 360 Award, a presentation meant to honor and give back to local caregivers who have been on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“Coming out of COVID, we want to hear these stories. During the pandemic these healthcare heroes went beyond the call of duty to care for our loved ones. Now we want to give back,” said Steve Reamey, clinical liaison at Advance Specialty Hospital in Toledo and the creator of the award program.
Under the ruse of needing to sign paperwork, Cantrell was lured into the UTMC lobby where a group of family, friends and coworkers awaited her arrival for the surprise.
In addition to the recognition, a number of local businesses provide free goods and experiences to the recipient of the CareGivers 360 Award, including a spa day, a downtown hotel stay, a dinner for two and the use of a new Jeep Wrangler for the day.
“Everyone’s been so supportive and great,” Cantrell said of her coworkers. “I can’t thank everyone enough. If I could take everyone in that room with me to all these things — they’re all deserving.”
Cantrell is on medical leave, but she’s eager to return to the critical care unit, which has seen a significant decrease in COVID-19 patients in recent months.
Looking back, she said the surges of patients were challenging but she was proud of the work she and her colleagues did.
“Given the circumstance, it was really tough and hard but we pushed through and hopefully it’s on the downside of it,” she said. “We can all breathe again.”