Health care heroes honored with street renaming outside PBMC

1300 Roanoke Avenue will now be known as 1 Heroes Way.

The northern portion of Roanoke Avenue outside of Peconic Bay Medical Center was officially dedicated during a ceremony Wednesday.

“We recognize…not just what was performed heroically in the four walls of this building by you and so many of your colleagues, but also all of our first responders and essential workers,” said PBMC CEO Andy Mitchell, addressing a group of employees at the hospital entrance. “Who came together in an absolutely unique and phenomenal way to make the world a better place when we were going through the Covid crisis.”

For six months, health care workers, first responders and other essential workers have remained on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, delving into the unknown with limited supplies and working under the constant threat of overwhelmed hospital capacity.

Their efforts did not go unnoticed.

For weeks, the sound of sirens serenaded hospital workers who lined Roanoke Avenue for ‘Thank you’ parades. Trays of food began showing up  at the hospital along with colorful notes and lawn signs thanking front line workers became a common sight.

“While we were fighting a war inside, we had the outpouring of support from our community outside,” said Michael Messana, a respiratory therapist at PBMC who described the pandemic as the “most trying time” of his career.

“The food, parades, pictures, flowers gifts…These things gave us the support we needed to fight COVID-19 and get our patients well and send them back home.”

Joined by other hospital officials and the Riverhead town board, Mr. Mitchell and town supervisor Yvette Aguiar unveiled the new street sign.

“Riverhead doctors, nurses, police, firefighters, EMS and ambulance personnel along with their support staff put their own safety aside and tirelessly battled an opponent,” Ms. Aguiar said, thanking them for their heroic efforts. “An insidious and unforgiving opponent.” 

Sherry Patterson, the hospital’s Board of Trustees president, said the Heroes Way designation is a fitting tribute. She recalled a time she visited the hospital to deliver food to the staff. “Everyone looked exhausted. They were doing double shifts,” she said. “But no one complained.”

The ceremony also featured a rendition of the Beatles’ ‘Here Comes the Sun’ which was played throughout the hospital each time a COVID-19 patient was discharged.

“It sort of became our theme song,” said chief nursing officer Christine Kippley, who performed the song on her guitar. 

In her 30-year career as a nurse, Ms. Kippley said she’s never seen anything like the coronavirus pandemic. “We were all very scared when this started, but the staff in this hospital…They showed up and took care of our patients. They did an amazing job,” she said.

Mr. Mitchell agreed that it’s been the most frightening time in recent memory.

“We just had no idea where the peak was going to be and how this was going to unfold not just here in our community but across the entire nation,” he said, adding that it has also turned out to be “one of the most incredibly rewarding” times as well.