Jan. 13—Just as the sun began rising Wednesday in Bartlesville, Wyatt Hockmeyer started jogging down the main entrance drive at Ascension St. John Jane Phillips Medical Center toward the street.
With one police car in front and another behind him, the ultra-marathon runner and director of performance improvement for Ascension St. John set out on U.S. 75 to run 46 miles to Ascension St. John Medical Center in Tulsa in honor of the frontline health workers who care for patients with COVID-19.
“Running 46 miles is tough, and I will definitely be sore and tired, but unlike our frontline health care workers, my shift stops at the end of the day,” he said. “Our caregivers run the equivalent of a marathon each day, only to wake up and do it again the next.”
Lisa Medina, chief nursing officer for Ascension St. John, recognized 17 Bartlesville health care workers in a short ceremony for their dedication to patients and fellow employees during the pandemic.
“They really are the rock stars,” she said. “They rise to the challenge every day and are truly inspiring.”
The employees were among 85 Ascension St. John frontline workers nominated by their peers to receive the “Extra Mile” Award for Extraordinary Pandemic Service. Each received a medal from the Medals4Mettle (M4m) organization, which collects marathon medals donated by endurance runners to give to people fighting serious illnesses such as cancer.
Mike Moore, president and chief operating officer at Ascension St. John Jane Phillips Medical Center, said both the medals and Hockmeyer’s run are a fitting way to honor employees who continue to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.
“It’s never easy, but if you’re not changing you’re getting left behind,” he said.
Hockmeyer pushed a stroller full of medals to deliver to other honorees for a 5:30 p.m. ceremony at Ascension St. John Medical Center in Tulsa.
“Each of the health care workers recognized today has made untold sacrifices and has truly gone the extra mile during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Karl Ahlgren, coordinator for the Tulsa chapter of M4M before presenting the medals and a certificate to each awardee in attendance.
Nurse manager Jennifer Butler was nominated for the recognition by seven of her peers, the most of any of her coworkers.
She said caring for patients takes an emotional toll because their families can’t be with them.
“We are the family to these patients. We hold their hand and comfort them,” Butler said. “A lot of us pray every morning that God would enable us to put ourselves in the family’s place.”
As Hockmeyer began his journey south, he raised his hand to those cheering him on.
“[Our caregivers] don’t ask for thanks or praise, and they put their lives on the line because we can’t get through this unprecedented time without them,” he said before he left. “I am truly honored to be part of this initiative and fortunate to call many of these brave individuals my friends and family.”