A Heart Full of Thanks … Giving

It’s not uncommon these days to find yourself in a conversation lamenting the strange times we’re living in. If it’s not COVID-19, politics, social justice, or the summer that never was, it’s something equally distressing. And, every conversation has merit. I find myself easily drawn into the weeds, and before I know it, the brightness of my outlook has been dimmed.

From my perspective, now is the perfect time to harvest a heart full of thanks. Despite the difficulties we are facing, I have much to be grateful for. So, here are my personal “top ten” reasons to be grateful (at least at this moment):

10. Pumpkin pie. This is a divisive subject in my family, but I find no better comfort food when fall hits and the leaves begin to change. Mix together a few ingredients and give yourself an hour. The trick is, and it’s important … bake the shell a few minutes before putting in the filling. Sometimes it’s the little extra effort that makes something special.

9. The Sierra Nevada. The lakes, trees, and scenery of these great mountains stir my soul. I can stand atop Mt. Whitney and feel on top of the world. I can look into the waters of Lake Tahoe and contemplate its depth. I can be refreshed by the gurgling sound and fresh taste of a remote mountain stream. There really is beauty in the mountains. The Sierra Nevada reminds me, daily, that life can exist simply, and majestically, if I just pay attention.

8. Technology. I’ve successfully worked from home periodically over the last few months. I’ve had virtual meetings with members of the U.S. Senate. I’ve stayed informed of a colleagues’ courageous (and successful) battle in the early days of COVID-19, with input from the Emergency Department to the Intensive Care Unit ranging everywhere from “it’s really bad” to “it’s going to be all right.” I’ve played Family Feud with nieces, nephews, and in-laws scattered all over the western states and Singapore. I’ve boycotted social media. I’ve even been introduced to “Baby Yoda” and forecasted the path to Jedi Master with other Star Wars fans. Technology created this phenomenal ability to connect and disconnect.

7. New perspectives. I’ve been in healthcare a long time. I’d like to think that there isn’t much I haven’t seen (Note: I can now reference leading through a pandemic). There is comfort in the familiar. But change is necessary to grow. In August, we welcomed Joanne Miller as our new Chief Nursing Officer. Joanne has an abundance of experience, too, and she has spent most of her career on the East Coast. She looks at the world differently, and I’m excited to see how my vision changes while looking at the world through her eyes.

6. U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report recently named Carson Tahoe Health, along with Renown South Meadows Medical Center, as the top hospitals in Nevada. They base their evaluation on clinical outcomes, safety, and patient experience. I know how hard we are working to continually improve, but this badge of honor helps those in our community understand just what a valuable community healthcare partner they have in Carson Tahoe. We’re proud of the recognition but more pleased that our ability to care for others makes a difference in people’s lives.

5. Changing priorities. The world has changed over the last six months, and my priorities with it. If you’re like me, the busyness of life can invoke perpetual motion. And, while I’m running with my eyes closed, I find that I’m missing real life along the way. So, rather than look like a typical CEO, I embraced the teenage, long hair, no-haircut-to-be-found new self. I’ve played more board games and placed more puzzle pieces this year than in my last 30 years. What great stories we shared of Paris, when that last piece of the Eiffel Tower finally found its rightful place. If I had a garden, I’d have fresh fruit by now (I’ll remember that for next year). We had so many goals for Carson Tahoe this year, but we’ve put a number of them on hold because caring for our patients, caregivers (my word for employees), and community in challenging times was our most important priority.

4. Work is good. Carson Tahoe made a decision early on in the pandemic to keep our team working. Volumes decreased and monies dried up, but we remained true to our goal, because taking care of caregivers also takes care of our community. Our mission statement is all about community. For me, even though it was different work, I found the work a relief. It was a moment in time where our collective actions really made a difference. I believe that everyone wants to do work that matters, and when you get to do meaningful work, you are blessed. I am truly blessed!

3. The calling of healthcare. Working at Carson Tahoe is a pretty good job, but for the majority of our caregivers, it’s more than that. How else do you explain showing up each day to fight a deadly virus we know relatively little about? The day-to-day issues our caregivers face is both routine and radically different at the same time. Despite schools being closed, jobs changing, friends and family becoming sick, and everything else this pandemic has thrown at us, our staff has been here reliably for our community. That drive comes from someplace within, an inner voice that calls to you.

2. Resilience. My 90+ year old mother has been on “lockdown” in her assisted living facility since March. No visitors allowed! No communal meals. She has essentially been isolated for months. My conversation on the phone a few days ago revealed a positive, adapting attitude. It wasn’t always like that. Her COVID-19 journey reflects the greatest part of the human spirit: the ability to triumph over adversity, live in the moment, and remain hopeful. There are so many examples of this human triumph that we can’t count them all. But now, thanks to a strange new world, we notice them.

1. Family. I could joke about the conflict of spouses spending too much time together or write poignantly about family togetherness, but really, it’s simply about love. It is good to love others, and it is good to be loved by others. And sometimes the testing of separation, anxiety, and fear serves to prove the power of love.

So, there it is, my “top ten” list. Is there a common theme? Maybe. I would have to say that theme is people. What a privilege I have to be in the people business. I get to stand alongside 2,000 other caregivers at Carson Tahoe and care for people. I don’t just get to tend to their clinical needs, but to share encounters that make us better. So, when it is all said and done—people matter most!

Best Regards,

Alan Garrett
President and CEO
Carson Tahoe Health