MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Behind every COVID-19 update is a story waiting to be told.
For over a year, WMBF News has provided data about coronavirus cases and pandemic restrictions placed on numerous South Carolina businesses.
Throughout that time, families shared their stories about overcoming so many unknowns surrounding COVID-19 both at work and at home.
Community members across the area are reflecting on what life has been like during these uncertain times, in the hopes of encouraging their neighbors to persevere and never give up.
Dr. Jeremy Robertson, Chief Medical Officer for McLeod Regional Medical Center, sees light at the end of the tunnel.
Robertson says the pandemic has been one of the most challenging times in his career because of some of the things he’s seen inside of the hospital walls.
He says the pandemic required staff members to come together in ways they never had to before, which helped them to learn more about how to fight the virus today.
“Along the way, we’ve had amazing stories of recovery, we [also] had tragic, tragic stories we will never forget,” said Robertson. “But as we gained perspective along the way, we’ve become more in tune in how to treat the disease and we’ve become better at it. Now we’ve entered this new phase of being able to protect ourselves with these vaccines.”
Like other hospitals, Robertson says a challenge medical workers faced was instilling trust with patients that it was safe to return to the hospital for care services.
He’s looking forward to the day the coronavirus is no longer a threat.
“My vision for the future is a very hopeful one,” said Robertson. “In the coming months, life will become more of what it was before COVID. We’ve learned a ton of lessons along the way but I’m very excited for what the future holds.”
Dr. Robertson said it’s important everyone continues to practice the same safety precautions they’ve been doing over the past 365 days, such as wearing a face mask and washing our hands, until more of the population is vaccinated.
Kenza Haddock, Clinical Director for the Oceanic Counseling Group, says throughout this pandemic, she’s talked with families in need of guidance.
That included parents, struggling to determine what to do with their child’s learning environment during a pandemic.
Haddock says a positive thing her employees have seen come out of this crisis is seeing more people reaching out for help, and not making a choice to suffer in silence.
“I’ve seen the stressors have removed the stigma off of mental health,” said Haddock. “Because I’ve seen people more willing to reach out. And I’ve seen that from the younger generation to the older generation which I’m grateful for.”
Haddock says in response to the needs of the community, she’s opening up a third counseling location towards the end of the month in the Carolina Forest area.
From the beginning of this pandemic, parents had to make choices about the learning environment for their kids. Deciding whether brick-and-mortar or virtual learning would be the best and safest option for their children.
David Warner has two kids in Horry County schools, one of them in the special needs classroom. He says over the last year, there have been both good times and rough times, with trying to ensure his sons were receiving the best and safest education possible.
“It was difficult,” said Warner. “Trying to figure out the balance, work, home, school, making sure everyone gets what they need. Taking time off in some cases from work to make sure our kids really are educated. It’s very difficult to send your child not knowing what could happen. Put your child in the district’s hands, hoping they’re going to do the correct thing. You just hope and pray they’re going to take care of your children. It’s a difficult decision to make.”
Warner hopes teachers are able to get fully vaccinated soon and students are able to catch up on any skills they’ve lost that could be attributed to not being in the classrooms full-time.
The sounds of a saxophone didn’t occur as much as musician Donald Thayer hoped for due to the pandemic.
“I went from working every weekend to not working at,” said Thayer. “Because the restaurants [experienced a ]slow [season], it’s really hard to get any work. There’s some work out there but they can’t pay what they use to pay. I feel sorry for them. I give them specials and sometimes I’ll do the first [performance] for free.”
Thayer says he’s now doing more charity events including an event taking place next Thursday night at Carolina Seafood & Steaks.
He says he picks the charities based on what people in his community are involved in.
This helps Thayer feel connected to the business community while helping to bring smiles onto people’s faces.
Thayer is happy to report, he’s fully vaccinated.
What lies ahead, remains a mystery. But many are envisioning brighter days for their neighbors, family and friends.
“Do not walk through pain alone, reach out to someone for help,” Haddock said.
Many families are already seeing a life of normalcy for their kids.
“I’m hoping that my kids will officially be at school full-time and not have to worry about a virus,” said Warner.
And for some, they’re wanting to see happier faces everywhere they do.
“What I really miss are smiling faces,” said Thayer. “I miss that more than anything. You go in a store [nowadays] all you see are eyes and masks. I don’t like that one bit. I can’t wait to see people smile. I see hope in the future, the bright rainbow is in front of us.”