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Faces of the Frontline: DHR Health emergency director works seven days a week during pandemic

Local News

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) — It’s been over a year since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the United States.

Yet, day after day, frontline workers have shown up for this country and their individual communities.

This includes Sherri Abendroth, the Director of Emergency Management at DHR Health.

Every morning she has the same routine: breakfast and coffee, feeding her fish, writing a grocery list of foods to pick up, watching a little television-, but most importantly, she works from home even before she’s expected at the hospital.

“I track U.S., Texas, and the four counties that make up the valley,” she said.

“I track those numbers daily.”

Sherri Abendroth, the Director of Emergency Management at DHR Health, handles many responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic

In Sherri’s position, she oversees emergency rooms, COVID units, and vaccination clinics. But since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 consumes most of her time at work, and at home.

“That’s the hardest thing for me, trying to wrap my head around what this virus is doing to people,” she said. 

Each day brings its own set of challenges.

“The lowest point for me is when you get a 27-year-old that comes in the door. She’s walking, she’s talking, she’s a little short of breath, and 48 hours later she’s on your list of expired patients.”

Sherri says she’s worked seven days a week and hasn’t missed a day since the start of the pandemic last year. In fact, each day she’s out the door before the sun is up and doesn’t come home until it’s down. 

She’s worked at DHR for eight years. 

This past year has been one of the most challenging of her career.

Most of her work these days is done at DHR’s makeshift command center, which is only steps away from where thousands of RGV residents get vaccinated.

“I have a whiteboard that I track the data on. I remember writing 500 cases in Hidalgo County, or 800 total cases in the Rio Grande Valley, and everyone said ‘this is crazy.’  I said wait till it gets to 50,000 or 100,000,” she said. 

We now have millions of COVID-19 cases here in Texas, hundreds of thousands in the Rio Grande Valley, and hundreds of people lined up at DHR daily to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sherri oversees a lot of that work, and says saving lives every day is no easy task.

Like many frontline workers, frustration can sometimes follow you home.

“I had a day where I was just off-center, and I ended up snapping at Randy. Bringing home that frustration is the worst,” she said. 

But her husband Randy says it’s easy to look past that frustration. He chooses to instead focus on the incredible work she does.

“I know she has a job to do and she does it,” Randy said.

But like any husband, he worries. 

He hopes his wife stays safe and remains healthy. After all, she’s worked seven days a week, hasn’t missed a day in a year, and also battles Multiple Sclerosis.

“The fact that she has MS, and the fact that she’s done this for 355 days impresses the daylights out of me.”

Sherri worries too–but keeps battling on the frontlines everyday. 

“My biggest fear is that I’ll end up in the hospital with an exacerbation. As long as I keep moving forward, my MS stays under control.”

Day by day Sherri continues to put one foot in front of the other. On her worst days, “I sit and I just clear my mind, meditate, talk to the fish, I draw,” she said.

And having a husband who understands the demands of her job also help, Sherri added. 

“She’s an impressive woman, and I love her,” Randy said.

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