SPEEDWAY — More than 10,000 Hoosiers so far were discharged from the IU Health hospital system. As of Wednesday, IU Health reports it has provided almost as many COVID-19 vaccines as it has COVID-19 tests. The fight, though, is not over and healthcare workers continue to care for more than 100 patients with COVID-19 at IU Health hospitals.
At the Indianapolis 500, five of those healthcare heroes will be recognized and participate in the Green Flag Delivery. They are Bernice Powell, Chris O’Day, Chris Peyton, Phillip Kibler and Matthew Davidson.
It is no secret Bernice Powell loves her job at Riley Hospital for Children.
“The passion is the patient and the people we were taught to love everyone no matter how old or how young or what color, we were taught to love everyone,” Bernice Powell said. The mother of three and grandmother of two has worked with the EVS team at Riley for almost 12 years.
She said during the pandemic, she felt a new level of responsibility, cleaning practically everything and anything to keep patients, employees and visitors safe.
“That’s what got me out, passion for my work,” Powell said. “We had to work together. Everybody had to work together in order to get to where we are right now.”
Powell has never been to the 500 before and said she is thrilled and humbled to take in everything Indy 500 on Sunday.
During the pandemic, Chris O’Day oversaw the COVID-19 Monoclonal Antibody Infusion Center. The Director of Nursing Professional Development for IU Health Physicians said throughout her nursing career, her patients are always her top priority.
“I was able to be a part of something that was bigger than myself,” O’Day said.
The mom born and raised in Indy said she felt a responsibility through the infusion center to lessen the burden on her colleagues treating COVID-19 patients by keeping them out of the hospital.
“Every single person who worked every single day in the hospital, to be a part of that team was unbelievable,” O’Day said.
Growing up, O’Day remembers going out to see her father, who was on the IMPD drill team, in the parade during Indy 500 weekends. She’s looking forward to bringing her daughter along on Sunday.
“We’re delivering that flag on behalf of all the people who worked really, really hard over this last year and all of the patients who did make it and those who didn’t,” O’Day said.
Chris Peyton’s life was saved during an IU Health LifeLine last August. The ER nurse was caring for cattle on his Heltonville farm when he knew something was wrong.
“2020 was a strange year all around,” Peyton said.
What he thought was a heart attack, turned out to be a serious cardiac episode with internal bleeding.
“Never really had any hospitalizations, so never really seen it from the other side of the bed,” Peyton said.
After a medical leave, Peyton too went back to the ER frontlines to fight coronavirus. A few weeks ago, he met up with the two men who saved his life on the LifeLine flight.
“If they hadn’t had been there, it wouldn’t matter how fast I could’ve got there, if they weren’t doing what they were doing, I wouldn’t have made it, even in a helicopter,” Peyton said.
Peyton said he never thought he would be able to experience this opportunity, but is grateful for the opportunity. He will be at the 500 with his wife.
"It's going to be really cool to see him in the helicopter not in the position that he was in before, and then we've said it in other interviews, we'll be pretty proud just to watch him walk up there and do it," Davidson said. "It'll be watching our kid graduate because we had a lot emotionally and professionally invested in that run."
"We are one small spoke in a very big wheel," Kibler said. "We had this gentleman for about an hour, and it was so much that happened before and after that kept this gentleman alive, that was... we are just a small part of that."
All five will deliver the Green Flag Sunday during pre-race ceremonies around 10:30 a.m.