WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – Across the Ohio Valley, inside hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, hundreds of healthcare workers have been working seemingly tirelessly to care for all of us. 

As many of us were able to stay at home this past year,  they didn’t have any other option but to go to work. Sometimes caring for the highest risk patients while putting their own safety aside. 

Now, it’s our chance to say thank you. 

Hometown Healthcare Heroes is a way to honor the work this group has done, and feature some of the men and women who have worked on the frontlines of Coronavirus. 

We begin inside Wheeling Hospital. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit nurse Rod Grafton didn’t hide from the virus. In fact, he volunteered to care for the sickest patients. 

It’s that commitment to care that makes him a Hometown Healthcare Hero. 

One day at a time. It sounds so simple, but in an ongoing pandemic with no certain end, that’s how Wheeling Hospital has had to handle patient care. 

Having these patients come in and they’re very sick, they’re isolated from their families, so we have to be there with them. We’re their biggest cheerleaders. We want to help them so they can be well and be back with their loved ones.

Rod Grafton, RN, Nurse on Wheeling Hospital COVID Unit

Rod has been a nurse for three years. 

Inspired by a deep desire to help he volunteered to put himself at risk to care for complete strangers and in the process became the closest thing they had to family as they battled this deadly virus. 

We’re the only people they see on the outside, so I thought it would just be something special that I could do to help the people of our community.

Rod Grafton, RN, Nurse on Wheeling Hospital COVID Unit

He keeps the patients’ families up to date because they’re scared to death. We’re their family while they’re here and I’ve got many cards, phone calls recognizing Rod for being such a good nurse.

Cindy Polen, RN, Nurse Manager on Wheeling Hospital COVID Unit

Co-workers describe him as energetic and outgoing with a strong set of clinical skills. 

Rod is spunky. He’s just always so positive and just really brings like a light to people’s shift and to patient’s stay.

Lisa Sandy, RN, Clinical Assistant for Wheeling Hospital Pandemic Units and 5th Floor

He’s always one to volunteer for an extra shift, and in the darkest of times has helped his coworkers push through. 

I wouldn’t wanna work with anybody else. I mean, our group of nurses here are just so supportive of each other.

Lisa Sandy, RN, Clinical Assistant for Wheeling Hospital Pandemic Units and 5th Floor

Getting Rod through is his family, providing a much needed relief from a high-stress job. 

I was working a full-time job at midnights and my wife was there behind me while I was going to school. My kids always ask me questions, ‘how was school? How was work?’. It’s a way that I can leave this place and just decompress and be so happy with the people around me.

Rod Grafton, RN, Nurse on Wheeling Hospital COVID Unit

On behalf of WTRF and the entire Ohio Valley; a big thank you to Rod, Cindy, Lisa and the entire team at Wheeling Hospital for everything they do. 

All three of them said they wouldn’t have been able to get through the year without their coworkers. 

They ask all of us to please keep wearing our masks, washing our hands, and to get the vaccine when it’s our turn. 

As a special thank you to our healthcare workers, WTRF and Belmont Savings Bank are collecting donations that will be used to send meals and gift cards to the staff at our local hospitals.

If you’d like to help out, click here.

If someone you love works in healthcare, click here to submit their photo and it may be featured on 7News this month.