On the eve of the second anniversary of admitting New Jersey’s very first confirmed COVID-19 patient, March 3, 2020, Hackensack University Medical Center buried a time capsule today with contents commemorating all that has happened since the start of the pandemic.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been two full years since James Cai, a 32-year-old New York physician assistant, arrived in our emergency department for care,” said Mark D. Sparta, FACHE, president & chief hospital executive, Hackensack University Medical Center. “At that time, we were bracing for the worst but I don’t think any of us really knew just how overwhelming this virus would be.”
At the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the northeast, Hackensack University Medical Center was inundated with patients desperately seeking care in March of 2020. “Mr. Cai’s case was completely new to all of us but just 19 days after being admitted to our Medical Center, we sent him home to his family, including his 20 month old daughter,” said Mr. Sparta. “Together, our entire team not only navigated the early days of the pandemic, they built a dynamic path forward helping thousands more patients recover and also go home to their families.”
Before burying the time capsule – which contained contents including thank you notes from the community; photos of claps outs & food donations; homemade masks sent to team members; hand sanitizer especially made for the hospital; and so many other items that represented all that the hospital’s frontline workers went through over the last two years – Mr. Sparta thanked his team. “You are true American heroes,” he said.
After the capsule was placed in a hole dug on the campus of Hackensack University Medical Center, various hospital leaders and team members picked up shovels to throw dirt on top of it.
“We have learned so much about medicine, resilience and most importantly, humanity,” commented Lisa Tank, M.D., chief medical officer, Hackensack University Medical Center who said this was the perfect day to bury the capsule, the anniversary of the last normal day we really knew before COVID came.
“This truly has been the greatest global test of healthcare in our generation but we are hopefully, now, coming out the other side,” said Mr. Sparta, who said when the capsule is unearthed in 100 years, it will be a true representation of the hospital’s legacy, enduring for centuries more to come. “It’s a new day and we are taking what we learned, delivering a new kind of care and we are never going back.”
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