How White Ribbons Are Making An Impact

It all began at a Board of Trustees meeting on March 26 at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital to address the growing COVID-19 crisis and how the hospital could best respond to and care for patients.

“I could see it in the faces of everyone at the meeting and I could hear it in the voices of those joining by phone – the raw emotion of the challenge ahead and what we would need to ask of our staff,” says Dennis Lemanski, D.O., who was scheduled to retire as CMO of Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital on April 1, but has remained on. “We had already seen doctors with tears in their eyes; nurses, respiratory therapists the same. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to recognize those people involved in the battle?”

The result is the White Ribbon Campaign, where members of the community are asked to show their support of all front-line workers and first responders by displaying a white ribbon in their window, tied around a tree in front of their house or from a flagpole. The only rule is that you must use whatever you already have in your home. As a result, people are using creative ways to show their support – printing and using the white ribbon image cutout – or even cutting up white plastic garbage bags and tying them into bows and ribbons.

“This show of support and love for not just Henry Ford healthcare workers, but for all healthcare workers, is a shining example of how this situation has created something positive,” says Bob Riney, President of Healthcare Operations and Chief Operating Officer for Henry Ford Health System. “We’ve all been touched by a healthcare provider who has been there for us in our time of need, perhaps even one who has made us feel important and special. Now is the time to put those feelings into action by displaying a white ribbon to thank them.”

Making A Difference By Lifting Spirits

Already, the message is being felt.

“I’ve been in the business of medicine for 15 years now, mainly with emergency medicine,” says Satheesh Gunaga, D.O., medical director of the Emergency Department at Henry Ford Health Center – Brownstown. “I’ve always recognized the importance of the work I do. Often, I have felt this importance by patients. But never in my lifetime have I felt so appreciated by my community, my peers and even family members.

“Seeing all of those white ribbons, it reminds me and my colleagues of what we’re doing and who we’re doing it for. We are so appreciative of Dr. Lemanski starting this and for members of the community for participating. We feel the support and appreciate it so much.”

Perhaps the effects of the white ribbons are felt most keenly at the end of a long shift, as the front-line healthcare worker drives home for a few hours of rest before returning for yet another shift.

“When you walk in the main entrance, you can see them in all the windows,” says Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital respiratory therapist Marie Beaudoin. “It’s extremely humbling. In healthcare, we don’t do these jobs for the accolades. We genuinely want to help. But it is nice to see the ribbons because it’s been tough. Once in a while now, we’ll look at each other and say, ‘Is this just a bad dream?’ But our management is amazing. My manager, Abdul Gellani, comes to work in his scrubs and is ready to get involved with whatever we need.”

Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital nurse Marissa Rodgers has been working 12- to 14-hour shifts, six days a week. She shares that she feels propped up by the ribbons and the sentiment behind them.

“Seeing the white ribbons around the community is so heartwarming,” Rodgers says. “On my way to or from work, seeing the ribbons on trees, light poles and then even on social media really helps you feel the love and support from the community. Walking around my block and neighborhood I am seeing the ribbons and I get excited to find new ones.

“From the very bottom of a tired nurse’s heart – and on behalf of all our nurses working so hard and tirelessly – I just want the community to know that these gestures, and all of the support, really means a lot to all of us and helps us through the bad days.”

Please support all our healthcare workers who are working tirelessly to help our patients. Print out and post the white ribbon image or post a picture of your white ribbon on social media with the hashtag #WhiteRibbonHeroes.

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