Silverthorne’s Got Heart: Local eye doc serves National Guard’s pandemic response
Published April 17, 2020
When our country is in crisis, members of the National Guard are “always ready, always there.” Even during the COVID-19 pandemic when they are facing the same anxiety, fears and family needs that the rest of us are, the National Guard’s citizen soldiers are called to step away from their daily lives and businesses to serve the community.
For Silverthorne eye doc Jessica Hegewald, owner of Blue River Vision, this calling to serve in the National Guard is a privilege.
“I chose health care and the National Guard for the same reason: because I want to help people,” said Dr. Hegewald. “I have had the amazing opportunity to go around the world providing eye care for medical missions and to help communities within our own country during the hurricanes.”
But the COVID-19 health crisis requires a different specialty than optometry and is testing Dr. Hegewald’s leadership and training at a whole new level. She was activated to serve 31-60 days as an Air Force Planner with the Joint Forces Headquarters in Denver, where she liaises between Air Force Operations, the medical group and the Joint Medical Planning Group.
“Sometimes I feel like the perpetual middleman, passing information up or passing information down,” said Hegewald. “Until you see the planning behind the State’s response to this pandemic, it is truly hard to imagine how many moving parts there are.”
Denver has been Colorado’s area hardest hit by COVID-19, so the majority of the National Guard’s support has been focused there. Hegewald has been involved in National Guard efforts including setting up the Convention Center as an alternative hospital, providing care to the homeless population at four different hotels around the city, and even providing Easter baskets to the kids staying at those hotels. The National Guard has also traveled the state to provide testing and has deployed liaisons to nine different counties to bolster their emergency management efforts.
“All of the heroes you see in the news are people activated from the community,” said Dr. Hegewald.
“I stepped away from my new business, and the stress of figuring out how to weather the storm and keep my employees taken care of has been a challenge. Yet, all that has to take a back burner. This is what I signed up for – to help when I am asked.”
After squeezing in any emergency eye care appointments in the mornings, Dr. Hegewald’s days are stacked with meetings – mostly via Zoom from Silverthorne due to social distancing efforts where only 20% of National Guard forces are to be at headquarters at any given time. She says the keys to staying sane during this pandemic have been establishing routine and exercising, although both look very different than they did before.
During Colorado’s public health order period through April 26, 2020, Blue River Vision is still coordinating emergency eye care and ordering glasses and contacts for residents of Summit County. Anyone in need of care should call (970) 368-6539 to make an appointment or place an order.
“I am proud of how Silverthorne has responded to the pandemic, and to see our neighbors understand the plight of the business owner and go out of their way to support them any way they can,” she said. ”My family and I are very proud to be a part of this amazing community that supports one another and we can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
You can read more about Dr. Hegewald and Blue River Vision opening in Silverthorne in a Business Spotlight from July 2018.