Fergus students write letters of encouragement to hospital ICU staff

GUELPH – This week ICU staff at Guelph General Hospital received some encouragement from students at John Black Public School in Fergus.

Students in Patrick Shannon’s grade 7/8 class wrote letters to ICU (intensive care unit) staff, thanking them for their hard work during the current wave of the COVID019 pandemic.

Students from Shannon’s class recently met virtually with Lisa Roszel, director of intensive care and step-down at Guelph General Hospital.

Roszel spoke to the class about the impact of COVID-19 at the hospital.

Shannon said it was important for his students to learn about what it’s been like for health care workers on the frontline of the pandemic.

“We talked a lot through the fall about how it’s important for students not to become complacent with regard to protocols, even if they weren’t seeing the impact of COVID first-hand,” Shannon said.

“It’s a real thing. Understanding it and seeing the impact from Lisa hit home with the students.

“It helped students see that doing the little things like simply wearing a mask can really make a difference.”

Shannon said his students were pleased when they saw a Facebook post from the ICU staff at Guelph General Hospital, showing their appreciation for the students’ messages.

“Having our students know their letters had an impact is meaningful to them. This was clearly not just another writing assignment for school.”

Noella Mallany, a grade seven student in Shannon’s class, reflected on the importance of Roszel’s discussion with the class.

“Listening to how hard it is for health care workers right now motivated my class to write these letters to show our support and gratitude towards them,” Mallany said.

“My class has a much better appreciation of what they have to go through during these trying times.”

Students in Alison Negrave’s kindergarten class also joined the effort by sending hand-drawn pictures to ICU staff.

The pictures, along with the letters from Shannon’s class, were recently posted on a wall in the hospital for staff to see.

“It is important for kindergarten-aged students to learn that sometimes a small act, like a smile, kind words or giving a drawing can go a long way to make someone feel better,” Negrave said.

“It is very important to us that our students are connected with their community, this year perhaps more than ever.”

She added, “When discussing the role the doctors and nurses play, we spoke to our students about how brave and strong they are, and how hard they are working to care for their patients.”

Negrave said the idea for her class to send drawings to ICU staff came about after Roszel mentioned at a school council meeting how hard hospital staff is working during this very difficult time.

“As a school staff, we wanted to do something to let them know how much we appreciate their dedication and caring for our community,” Negrave said.

She added her students were more than willing to show their support for the ICU staff.

“Our class was delighted to be able to send their work along to the hospital,” she said.

“Our students are such kind-hearted and empathetic children. They were proud to show their caring and support in their own way.”

Negrave noted her students have adapted to pandemic restrictions with “grace and ease” and the past year has helped them become more resilient.

“The silver lining is that the unusual circumstances of this year have resulted in students who are kind, patient and independent,” she said.

“Those are life lessons I would wish for all of my students.”

Roszel told the Advertiser the letters and pictures she and her staff received from students have helped them get through this difficult stretch of the pandemic.

Noting she has children attending John Black Public School, she said she wanted to inform students the current COVID situation is real and to show them what workers are going through in the ICU.

Roszel says she and the rest of the ICU staff are overjoyed about how supportive the John Black students have been.

“I knew my staff was going through a really hard time,” Roszel said.

“We’ve been reading one letter per day, for a little piece of optimism.

“The letters are a reminder that even with all of the [anti-vaccine] stuff going on, there are people out there supporting us.”

Roszel says that with misinformation circulating around the community and “COVID fatigue” setting in, it has become easy for staff morale to drop in the ICU.

“Not everyone gets to see your experience,” she said.

“It’s hard not to feel like people have given up on us, and we take it personally.”

Roszel said believes it is very important for health care workers to speak with students, to get their message out to them and to see support coming in from the community.

“It’s good to have a dialogue with people. It’s great to see that lots of people believe in you and support you,” she added.

Roszel said often it’s only the loudest voices in the community that are heard, and that makes it even more important for health care professionals to speak up and get the message out.

“COVID is a real thing. It’s really here. We just need to hold on a little longer,” she said.

“We all need to wear our masks, physically distance, and wash our hands. These things work, we know they do.”