Over 100 first responders from throughout the Santa Maria Valley left their posts to stand with Marian Regional Medical Center staff under a hot sun Friday, sounding their sirens outside the hospital in a show of support.
As the hospital's bell tower tolled at noon, Marian nurses and medical staff, still in their scrubs and face masks, talked and laughed with members of the Santa Maria Police and Fire departments, along with County Sheriff's Office personnel, as they took a break from their hospital routine.
Marian CEO Sue Andersen said the display of camaraderie brought tears to her eyes as she stood among hospital staff members.
"It made me so proud to be a part of this community. To have first reponders thanking first responders is an incredíble thing," she said.
After the bell tolled, medical staff cheered as first responders paraded their vehicles around the Marian Extended Care Center and Mission Hope Cancer Center, waving and blaring their sirens.
The parade and a preceding appreciation barbecue for over 1,500 Marian employees was organized by the Santa Maria Fire Department.
Anesthesia technician Julian Tinoco said staff were excited to hear about the event earlier in the week.
"It’s a blessing, it's really special," Tinoco said.
According to Fire Chief Leonard Champion, the event served as a way to recognize medical staff as part of the first responder family and honor the collaborative work that is done between local response departments, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Too often, police and fire make the front-page news, and hospital workers don’t," Champion said. "I think this is just the beginning of recognizing hospital staff as first responders ... for a more holistic view."
Robyn Dodds, a registered nurse in the hospital's Command Center, said she worked with the Fire Department, where her husband Kyle Dodds is a fire captain, to help organize the parade at Marian.
"When you’re in this profession, it’s about the camaraderie, whether you’re a spouse or not," she said. "We decided it’s the time to capture this moment, to show the community the love we have, that we are partnering together."
She added that although the pandemic has been full of uncertainties, the community's commitment to the health orders and the hospital's ability to prepare ahead of time have both helped immensely.
"Half of our success has been due to the community," she said.
Laura Place covers city government for the Santa Maria Times.
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