The end of another year. A time to reflect, and a time to look forward. 2020 has proven a year unlike any in most of our lifetimes. The past year provided opportunities to reflect on the things in life that we often take for granted, ponder on the qualities we value, and recognize the blessings we have in Fergus Falls.
No doubt 2020 has seen suffering in our community; but as Paul wrote to the Romans, suffering can ultimately lead to hope. We have witnessed struggles in our local economy, the elderly and isolated, and our children. But there has also been perseverance by our local businesses, those caring for the vulnerable, and in our schools. The character of Fergus Falls is demonstrated in our teachers, churches and volunteers. But in 2020, nowhere in our community have the struggles, perseverance, character and hope been more apparent than at Lake Region Healthcare.
Lake Region Healthcare is a pillar of the Fergus Falls community. They employ more than 900 people and are the largest employer in Otter Tail County. Their commitment to our region’s overall health has been evident through their commitment to charitable causes, economic development priorities and numerous wellness initiatives. Having an independent hospital in a community the size of Fergus Falls is something many people take for granted. Very few communities our size have the primary, secondary and tertiary care offered at Lake Region Healthcare. The challenges to rural hospitals and clinics are real and have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The efforts of administrators and directors to remain independent are much appreciated.
But 2020 has illuminated the often under-recognized contributions of the individuals who go to work every day to keep our hospital going. Those who mop the floors and those who perform surgeries; those who maintain technology and those who file the paperwork. But mostly the nurses at the bedside providing physical and emotional care.
In November, my father suffered a life-threatening case of angioedema. I spent three days off and on with him in the ICU and witnessed firsthand the extraordinary efforts our health care providers put forth every day. It was an eye-opening experience to spend time in the ICU during the local peak of a global pandemic. There were patients who appeared younger than myself on ventilators seemingly fighting for their lives with every breath. There were priests and clergy summoned to bedsides. It seemed unbelievable, yet it wasn’t.
Although my father’s condition was life-threatening, it was also treatable. It was treatable because of the planning and preparation to ensure capacity amid a pandemic. It was treatable because of science. But most of all, he was able to be treated because of the everyday heroes who have faced incredible adversity yet continue to do their job.
I want to personally say thank you to the health care care professionals in our community. Fergus Falls is grateful for all that you do.
I look forward to 2021 and fishing with my dad and kids this summer. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a joyous and prosperous new year to all!
Ben Schierer is the mayor of Fergus Falls.