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With four marathons under her belt, including the New York City Marathon in 2006, Director of Infection Prevention and Control Sharon Holmes is well-versed in what it takes to go the distance.
In March 2020, she would unexpectedly begin her fifth endurance race – the COVID-19 marathon.
It was the preparation on the frontend, the support of those around her and staying the course that made the difference in this race.
"As we started to hear about the virus in Wuhan, China, in those months before, we began writing SBARs to address the 'what if' scenarios," Sharon explained. "So having it on our radar was essential to us acting as quickly and as nimbly as we could."
While on vacation with her family skiing in New Mexico, news broke that commercial COVID testing was being released and Sharon knew it was time to start this next race. Heading back a day early from vacation, the Incident Command Center came together, where Sharon would be a fixture from day one. "I had an idea in my head of how it was going to go," she recalled, "but there was no way to predict that a year later we would still be working to solve this."
With the ever-evolving way we needed to respond to this disease, the aspect that didn't change was our reliance upon science. "We stayed true to the CDC guidelines because we trusted the science," she said. "The CDC is the highest authority in health care and their reputation speaks for itself." Sharon recognized the importance of having such an authority to guide them based upon her own experience with a pandemic a few years before.
Prior to Cook Children's in 2019, Sharon spent several years at Children's Health, during which Dallas faced its terrifying Ebola scare. Being able to drawn upon firsthand experience and lessons learned, Sharon acknowledges the most effective path forward in the face of a potentially devastating medical crisis was a more-controlled and non-reactive approach guided by the CDC recommendations.
While the CDC did serve as our overall guide, Cook Children's command center consistently made decisions and considerations that would be unique to our own employees' questions and concerns. As part of the command center, Sharon was an invaluable go-to resource.
"I don't think I could say enough how indispensable Sharon was during this," Susi Whitworth, M.D., medical director of Infectious Diseases, said. "Sharon was available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, always answering her phone. In all that time, she was calm and never lost her cool, even when those around her were losing theirs. Her thoughtful practical responses every time were always welcomed and helpful."
That commitment and accessibility is true to form for Sharon. "I always say to myself – If you commit to something, you do it and you do it at 100%," she said. As such, commitment leads to stability and stability will lead to success.
Now leading the COVID center for employees, as well as the Infection Prevention team, Sharon credits our employees with how successfully we have been able to curb this spread amongst our staff. "I'm thankful our employees consistently follow our guidelines after so long," she said. "The fact that we are not seeing our staff getting sick at work from one another or from the patients shows me that our consistency in procedures is working."
Despite the last chaotic 12 months, Sharon chooses not to dwell on the anxious times but rather on one of the most valuable lessons that we have all learned. "I come away with feelings of gratitude that all the people around me have been so gracious and kind," she shared. "People are regularly checking on me and it just warms my heart. I know that I'm not alone and I'm also not the only one who has experienced this type of support. I believe that we have all learned to simply be kinder to one another."
We all need each other to be safe, to be successful and to endure such a 'race' as this one we are in. So, with our hopeful eyes on the finish line of COVID-19, we should lock arms and cross together because #WeAreCookChildrens.