HARLINGEN — They brought Thelma Garza to tears.
Law enforcement units on Friday from throughout the Rio Grande Valley — including the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Pharr Police, just to name a few — did a sort of pass in review by Valley Baptist Medical Center to honor front line medical workers.
Garza, seniors choice program coordinator, was visibly moved by the gesture toward her coworkers at the hospital.
“These people have been through so much,” she said. “I think what the law enforcement did for them is amazing.”
The pass by Valley Baptist was one leg of a much larger “Healthcare Hero Recognition Event” for National Hospital Week. Dozens of vehicles with sirens screaming and lights flashing passed by Valley Regional Medical Center, Harlingen Medical Center, Valley Baptist Medical Center–Harlingen, Valley Baptist Medical Center–Brownsville, and UT Health Rio Grande Valley.
It was “heroes recognizing heroes,” said Manny Vela, CEO of Valley Baptist in Harlingen.
“When you look at it that way, it’s from a first response perspective to our staff here at Valley Baptist,” he said. “These people have a single focus in mind when they go into work and that’s helping people in our community, protecting people in our community and supporting people in our community.”
This was the second such event that Patrick Ybarra, administrative director of nursing at Valley Baptist, had seen.
“It’s their token of appreciation for the things we do every single day for the community and the Valley as we do get patients from Willacy, Hidalgo, all different counties,” he said. “We’re open to every single patient.”
Garza couldn’t say enough for her friends, the doctors and nurses at Valley Baptist.
“Without them, we’d all be gone,” she said. “They’re on the front lines.”
In Brownsville, Red and blue lights, a helicopter and dozens of law enforcement officers in their patrol vehicles were part of the recognition event Friday morning as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Brownsville Police Department, Hidalgo County authorities, South Padre Island Police, San Benito Police, Brownsville Independent School District Police, UT Police, Rancho Viejo Police, Los Fresnos Police and the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department were among the partners that made this event possible as they visited Valley Regional Medical Center and Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville.
“I think our staff, and I know our staff appreciated all the support. And this is truly an honor, for everyone to come in and just show the support that they’re demonstrating for our staff. It’s a very beautiful tribute,” Marisa Aguilar, chief operating officer at Valley Baptist Health System in Brownsville, said.
“We greatly appreciate all the support. I think our hospital staff, especially during Hospital Week and Nurses Week, it is a great tribute for them to appreciate everything that they’ve done. So, we really enjoy the support that we have received from law enforcement and we really appreciate that.”
Aguilar said she gets emotional when she thinks about everything that the healthcare workers have gone through for the past year. She said they are our local heroes and thanks them for all their hard work they continue to do while doing what they love, which is saving lives.
When it comes to the hopes for the future, Aguilar said she would like to see more people get educated on the COVID-19 vaccine because there are still a lot of residents who are hesitant about whether or not to get it. She said there is a lot of misinformation out there shared on social media but that there are resources available to answer questions about the vaccine.
As of press time, in Cameron County there are only 161,538 residents fully vaccinated, a total of 38%. There are 214,989 residents who have received at least one dose, a total of 51%, according to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Staff writer Nubia Reyna contributed to this report