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MultiCare hospital places 1,400 flags in candlelight vigil for those lost to COVID-19

Community members and hospital staff gathered outside MultiCare Valley Hospital Monday night to remember the more than 1,400 people who have died from COVID-19 in Spokane County since the start of the pandemic.

“We acknowledge together this pandemic has been going on for two and a half years,” Bill Strunk, a hospital chaplain said. “We also acknowledge that it’s not over and our experiences of death and loss are not complete.”

Strunk led prayers and rituals of mourning: a candlelight vigil and a Jewish Litany of Remembrance.

Blue flags for each individual life lost in the community were placed at Valley Hospital, MultiCare Deaconess Hospital and MultiCare Rockwood Main Clinic.

Community members who attended wrote messages on some of the flags for their loved ones and had time to share with each other stories about their loved ones. The flags will stay up for the rest of the week.

Brittany Zimmerman, an intensive care nurse at Valley Hospital has cared for some of the sickest patients throughout the pandemic.

“Twelve hours a day I would spend with your loved ones,” she said. “I would listen to your calls and try to paint you a picture of what the pandemic looked like over the phone.”

Over time, she got to know these patients and stayed with them when they died.

“I held numerous patients’ hands as they took their last breath and let them know that they were important and that I was there with them. I let them know if you weren’t there, that they were cared for.”

Hospital staff want families to know that their loved ones “meant more to us than just a patient to a hospital,” she said. “The impact they left on us continues and is carried on.”

Greg Repetti, president of MultiCare Valley and Deaconess hospitals, gave a heartfelt acknowledgment of the loss of innocence and stress his staff went through during the pandemic, but celebrated their efforts.

“I am moved by what you have done and what you continue to do today on behalf of our patients and their families,” he said. “Thank you for coming to work every day and stepping up and giving of yourselves to our patients and our community.”

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.