Honoring Our Frontline Heroes: Josh West

Josh West entered emergency medicine because of his mother-in-law’s passion for her role as an RN in Florida. Josh says, “She talked me into getting my EMT license, and I’ve loved the job ever since! I love the thrills of the job, but I also enjoy making a difference in people’s lives, even if it’s just being someone who will listen to them.”

When Josh chose to enter the medical field, he went all in. Prior to moving back to Michigan, Josh worked in Florida for eleven years as a Firefighter/Paramedic for Polk County Fire Rescue, as an EMT with Transcare Ambulance Service in Tampa, and as a Patient Care Technician in Spring Hill.

Today, Josh West works at Metro Health Hospital in Michigan as an RN in the emergency department. While this is his full-time job, he also works as a paid-on-call Firefighter/EMT for Zeeland Township Fire Rescue.
Josh says that “it’s strange with the Covid-19 response now. After all of the media coverage initially, it was somewhat frightening. Locally, we saw all of the coverage from Detroit and anticipated to be hit hard like they were. Fortunately, we have not seen those kinds of numbers here. Hopefully, we won’t. We have, however, been preparing for the worst and hoping for the best! And sending up lots of prayers!”

We are thankful that we have healthcare workers and first responders, like Josh, who are prepared for anything.

The message that Josh would pass along is to “please take this seriously, especially as the stay-at-home orders are relinquished. There is a very likely chance that a second wave of cases will come through so please continue to practice social distancing.”

~A Diverse Global Article written by Catie Cordero

Honoring Our Frontline Heroes: Samuel Ortega

For the last three years, Samuel Ortega has worked as a first responder for the Norton Shores Fire Department. A passion for this field arose at a young age, watching his father serve the community in Los Angeles City Fire Department in California. Sam loved visiting the station and climbing all over the trucks.

Sadly, his father passed away from ALS, which was triggered by firefighting work. The loss was devastating and for years Sam pushed away the calling to join Fire Service, but God had other plans.

Only God would know that Sam’s service would be needed at such a time as this. Even though the call volume has lowered, the stress and mental load is much heavier. Protocols are changing daily, sometimes hourly. As a first responder, being ready and adaptable is key. Even before Covid-19, the department had a certain amount of P.P.E. (Personal Protective Equipment) to wear, and now, the P.P.E. required is greater—regardless if a patient is assumed positive or negative for coronavirus.

With every case they face, our responders must recognize and face the danger. Unfortunately with Covid-19, the danger doesn’t end at the conclusion of their shift. As they return home, they dump their clothes in the washing machine and jump in the shower, hoping to protect their own families. The danger is real, but they face it for us.

Each day, Sam and his team strive to be at their best in order to keep the community safe. Sam says that it is a hard balance between doing his job safely and wanting to jump right in and help. “For the community, we keep our heads down and keep moving forward. This too shall pass,” says Sam. “While I think our normal will definitely be a “new normal” this will pass.”

We are grateful for Samuel and all first responders. Being on the frontlines is challenging physically, emotionally, and mentally. Please join us in praying for these great men and women. Please remember Sam and his family in your prayers.

And remember these last words from Samuel Ortega…“Think for yourself, don’t believe everything and anything the media tells you. Use precaution but don’t live and operate out of fear. And above all, keep your faith.”

~A Diverse Global Article, Written by Catie Cordero

Honoring Our Frontline Heroes: Nicole Sparks

 

“Want to know who’s not practicing social distancing? These babies! Because they just keep coming,” says Nicole Sparks, a physician of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Atlanta, Georgia. “And I fully expect to have an influx of babies approximately 9-10 months from now. (Laugh out loud)!”

Nicole has been an OB GYN for almost five years, but her interest in the medical field started as a young girl. Growing up, she marveled at how her family pediatrician would perform back to back visits for her four siblings and herself and never lose patience. Her doctor cared for them with such kindness that it imprinted on Nicole’s heart. She knew she wanted to follow in the same career path.

Since becoming a physician, never did Nicole dream that she would find herself working during a pandemic. She says, “This is unchartered territory. The biggest challenge I am facing as a physician at this time is trying to keep my patients calm in the midst of grave uncertainty. The field of OB GYN is unique in that we are taking care of two patients at any time—both the mother and her baby. Mothers are extremely worried at this time. They are afraid of what the future holds for their pregnancy and their delivery. They are looking for us to have all the answers, and unfortunately we are navigating this new territory too, just like they are.”

In order to promote peace during this time of uncertainty, Nicole’s first priority has been to remain calm and educate herself so that she can strengthen and encourage her patients. Nicole says, “Pregnancy is supposed to be a beautiful time, and it has been plagued by a pandemic. So as a physician, I feel it is my duty to encourage my patients and provide them with information that will keep them safe. We took an oath when we became physicians to do no harm. That is what I intend to do, especially during a time like this.”

The outlook can be bleak sometimes, but there is something that will always light up the darkness—the wonderful gift of life when a child is born. They are the picture of innocence. They are our hope for tomorrow. Thank you to Nicole and all OB GYN physicians for assisting mothers and their beautiful babies, in all seasons. You are our frontline heroes. We are grateful to you.

In closing, let us remember and dwell on the good in this world. Let us shift our focus to the positive things. Nicole said it perfectly in a recent Instagram post. “I hope if nothing else that this time away from work and busyness helps people realize what really matters most. I hope this time helps us to focus on our loved ones, on really connecting with each other, and connecting with ourselves. Take the news in doses. Guard your heart. Guard your peace. We will get through this. Together.”

~Written By Catie Cordero (A Diverse Global Article)

Honoring Our Frontline Heroes: Tayler and Mike Kooienga

Tayler Kooienga is a healthcare worker who normally works in an outpatient endoscopy center in Grand Rapids. When that center was put on temporary closure, Tayler called Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Hospital to offer her assistance. It could have been easier or safer to remain home, but Tayler chose to go to the frontlines. She says, “I felt I had to do what I could to help.” It is with this giving, selfless heart that she serves her patients.

During this pandemic, she has worked with men and women fighting against Covid-19. Because she is not ICU certified, she cares for patients once they are off of the ventilator and making progress towards recovery and discharge.

Like Tayler, her husband, Mike, is also in the medical field. Normally, he works in a procedural area of the hospital but has been redeployed to the ICU to assist with the growing volume of patients. While the ICU stays busy, the rest of the hospital seems eerily empty. Saint Mary’s has canceled all elective procedures and surgeries that normally keep these units lively and full. Visitor restrictions also play a big role in the quietness.

While the group of patients have increased in West Michigan, Grand Rapids still hasn’t seen the vast amount of coronavirus cases like that of East Michigan. However, Tayler says that “there is a constant sense of uneasiness about when it will become as bad in this part of Michigan as they are warning us it will.”

One of biggest challenges that Tayler has seen thus far is the emotional taxation that isolation plays in the lives of her patients due to visitor restrictions. Tayler says, “As a nurse, you are one of the only in-person interactions these patients have during their stay. They can call or talk to their loved ones over video chat, but it’s just not the same as having them by your side during a difficult time. I cannot imagine how hard that must be.”

We are continually grateful for the sacrifices that Tayler, Mike, and all other healthcare workers are making to save lives. You are our heroes! We pray for protection and health to surround you as you treat and serve those in the hospital.

In closing, Tayler wanted to say this, “I would like to acknowledge and thank all the people who are putting their lives at risk on a daily basis because what they do is essential and important. We appreciate all your hard work!”
Well said, Tayler. We couldn’t agree more.

~Written By Catie Cordero (A Diverse Global Article)

Honroing Our Frontline Heroes: Kid’s Food Basket

Did you know that 1 in 5 Michigan children go hungry every day?

As I continue the series “Honoring Our Frontline Heroes,” the organization I am featuring today holds a special place in my heart as they serve my local community in Michigan. Kids’ Food Basket (KFB) is a non-profit organization that is working to change the above-mentioned statistic by providing nutritious evening meals to kids, and engaging the community through volunteering and education.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many citizens are suffering from unemployment, which causes the crisis of hunger to grow. There are many vulnerable families that are not able to go to the store or get the resources they need, which is why Kids’ Food Basket is critical.

KFB has created an Emergency Response Program. They have divided their volunteers into three teams. On a team’s designated week, they will be the only ones to enter the KFB building to assemble the meals. In this way, they lessen risk and should one of the teams go into quarantine, the other teams will be able to continue assembly and distribution.

According to Bridget Clark Whitney, the President and Founding CEO of Kids’ Food Basket, “What both launches me out of bed in the morning and keeps me awake at night is the unimaginable number of 75,000 local kids experiencing food insecurity who didn’t have what they needed prior to the crisis. While the Shelter in Place policy is a critical step to stop COVID-19, the ramifications to vulnerable populations will be incalculable. There were 75,000 children across our four counties that were qualified for federally subsidized breakfast and lunch, now, with Shelter in Place, healthy food resources, which were already expensive for struggling families, have become that much more difficult to access.”

In just two weeks time, KFB packed and distributed 73,302 healthy meals to over 60 sites across four counties (Kent, Muskegon, Ottawa & Allegan).

Bridget goes on to say, “Over the last two weeks, I’ve felt a constant duality in my personal response to this crisis – it guts me knowing how many of our community members are struggling, and we’re just at the beginning of the impact. At the same time, I’m energized and encouraged by the prospect of deep growth. Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of humanity, and collectively, we are at war with a virus. This war will force us to dig deep, build grit, discover tenacity, and problem solve…when things are at their worst, we have the opportunity to be at our best.”

Thank you to the volunteers of KFB who are on the frontlines continuing to provide meals to children through this worldwide crisis. You are heroes.

Donations can be made on their website (https://www.kidsfoodbasket.org) or text KFB to 56651.

Check out the article by Bridget Clark Whitney called “Food distribution for kids during COVID 19” for more information. (https://www.rapidgrowthmedia.com/features/kids_food_basket_covid19_response.aspx?fbclid=IwAR2JW2fLXw08y_RmIGDBdHzwylABph0PiIfcARbDvHC5DAyy5kOwxDyiGSk)

#CovidCantStopGOOD

~Written by Catie Cordero (A Diverse Global Article)

The Magic Snow Globe: A Children’s Book

I’ve dreamed of this day since I was 10. I’m not fibbing. I have wanted to publish a book for that long! And today, that dream is a reality.

The Magic Snow Globe is my debut. It’s a children’s book about twins, Willow and Wendell Potter, who purchase a special snow globe from an antique store. At night, the globe lights up and transports them to magical lands where they learn the real secret to Christmas magic.

Not only did I write the book, but I also illustrated it. I worked hard to capture the scenes that were in my mind. Each drawing was painted using watercolor and acrylic. My mother, Cindy Overbeek, an experienced painter, helped me with the painting so that each image would pop.

I desire for this book is to inspire wonder and imagination. Oh that we would set down our iPhones and get lost in a book again. Let the pictures speak to us and the words whisk us away.

I hope The Magic Snow Globe would help you dream up your own magical lands and the wonders of Christmas.

If you would like to purchase this book, it is available on amazon.com as a paperback and Ebook. (Click the highlighted text to be taken to the page)

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Altered: A Flash Fiction Story

 

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I wasn’t always like this.

I used to be a shining star, a person with abundant potential, destined for greatness. Then the episodes came.

They moved upon me like mist overtaking the sea. At first, I tried to hide the shame of my agony, but I live in a small town. No one can hide secrets in a small town. My episodes are too vile to hide. When they wreak their havoc, I am tormented, unable to eat, sleep or find composure. I rock and scream and plead for death to come.

My friends have abandoned me, the insane one. I had once hoped to find love and happiness. But now, I know that’s impossible. I am outcast. Destined to die in this broken, ruined shell of a woman. The nights are long and lonely. There’s no hope for me.

So I thought.

But then, he came. The man with the haunting eyes came to our village. I stayed on the outskirts of the crowd, watching and twitching as he spoke. As I drew a step nearer to hear him, those closest to me moved aside, not wanting to brush shoulders with someone unclean. I don’t blame them. I know what I am. Suddenly he stopped talking and looked directly at me. I trembled harder, sensing his gaze pierce into my ugly soul.

Breaking through the crowd, he came to meet me, face to face.

I shriveled backward in fear, begging him to keep his distance.

He extended his hand and touched my cheek. “Peace to you, dear one.”

Instantly, the plague in my mind ceased.

“Come, Mary.” He smiled. “Your future awaits.”

I followed him, with a heart overwhelmed by hope. Today I, Mary Magdalene, found Love.

Altered: A Flash Fiction Story by Catie Cordero
Picture Adapted from polyvore.com

I TOLD YOU: a poem of hope

This poem was written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox in 1905. I painted this watercolor today  in honor of spring and new hope.  Dear readers, there is always hope. No matter what your “winter” has brought;  spring will come.

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Band-Aid the Broken

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In life, we all experience being wounded and broken.

I’ve gone through seasons of deep sorrow. I lost my first baby girl, Shiloh, in December of 2011, and my heart felt like it was ripped open. And ten months later, I lost another baby, Selah. I felt my heart’s wound widen and the pain grow deeper.

In those times, I could hardly muster creativity or the desire to write. But my counselor advised me, “Catie keep writing. Journal through your thoughts and emotions. Writing is your outlet, and it will bring you healing.” (For those of you who are also writers, I want to say that out of the heart, our writing springs and when our hearts are wounded and broken, sometimes it leaks more than it flows. But that is okay.)

In my pain I journaled:

Surviving a Broken Heart
The news comes so unexpectedly
At first all is well, then ends in tragedy
To lose a life so small it seems
Unfair with all the sorrow it brings
How can a heart survive the blow
That grief drives in so deep, so low
It filters through the body and more
The spirit, the soul, they all feel sore
Lord mend the wound that bleeds inside
Send peace and grace into my mind
I can’t walk this journey alone
I need your help to make me strong

 

Not only did I journal, but I would pray, which wasn’t easy when the last thing I felt like doing was praying. But God showed me something very special as I brought him my pain. He showed me a picture of my heart with a jagged wound down the middle, but sealing the tear shut was a big pink “Hello Kitty” Band-Aid.

A memory flashed through my mind of me as a child repeatedly falling off my bike and scraping my knees. I would come into the house crying. My knees would be torn up and bleeding. Dad or Mom would rub my back and tell me it’s going to be okay. They would wash away the blood, put on triple-antibiotic ointment, apply a Band-Aid, and place a kiss on the boo-boo and say, “All Better.”

This is what Father God did for me.

I came to Him with my torn heart. He looked at the wound and said, “It’s going to be okay.” He wiped away my tears and rubbed my back. Then He washed the wound clean with His love. He applied an antibiotic salve of peace and covered the wound with a Band-Aid. Placing a kiss on the boo-boo, He said, “It will heal.”

This is the truth I have found. The Lord desires to Band-Aid our broken hearts. We can take our pain to him.

If you are struggling in a season of brokenness, I want you to know that God desires to bring you healing. Sometimes it is hard to understand how a loving God can allow the hardships of sickness, impairments, grief, loss, and death. And though it is a paradox to me, I know that it’s still better to press into God, than pull away from him. It’s in his arms that I find hope.