Chris Fisher – Hometown Hero

Title:Chris Fisher – Hometown Hero

From the Free Lance-Star, May 17, 2020. By Rob Hedelt

Like many people who hang onto a nugget of advice from a wise, older relative, Chris Fisher says something his grandfather told him years ago shapes how he lives.

The 44-year-old ICU nurse and scoutmaster said his grandfather advised him to chip in and help in the community as much as he could for as long as he could. The older man knew that one day, Fisher might need help from someone else.

“I really do believe that service and volunteerism is an important part of character,” he said. “And I’ve tried to do what he recommended.”

Fisher lives that credo. He works long shifts treating COVID-19 patients at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center and provides volunteer care for fellow church members. He also instructs advance members of his Boy Scout troop in Tappahannock—something he does virtually these days.

For all the ways he helps other, Fisher has been declared a Hometown Hero.

In nominating her parishioner Fisher for the distinction, the Rev. Catherine Hicks of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Port Royal noted Fisher was getting trained as an operating room nurse when the coronavirus hit. He was asked by Spotsylvania Regional to put that on hold to come back to the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit to help cope with the influx of patients with COVID-19.

Hicks said Fisher “took this change in good grace and has applied his usual diligence to his work back in the ICU,” then added that he’s “not only a hero in the work world, but is also scoutmaster for Troop 304 in Tappahannock.

“During this period of social distancing, he has kept his troop together by figuring out how they can continue to meet virtually,” she said. “This troop continues to work and play together online. And like other leaders, Chris is having to make some hard decisions about how to move forward over the next several months with this group, and he is doing that thoughtfully and thoroughly.”

Beyond that, she said Fisher “is the most wonderful member of St. Peter’s, taking it on himself to visit older parishioners with health issues, to check their blood pressure, to answer questions, to provide reassurance, and to help with the little emergencies that people living in rural areas need help with. He is also a lay Eucharistic minister and takes communion to people, and helps do all sorts of things around the church that need doing.”

She closed by adding that Fisher “has even grown his hair long several times with the express purpose of donating his locks to Locks of Love so that his hair can be used for wigs for cancer patients.”

Contacted about the nomination, Fisher said what most medical folks are saying these days: that he’s no hero, and is just like every other medical worker who got into the business to help patients get better.

Fisher, who lives just over the Caroline County line in Essex County, said he didn’t think twice about coming back from training to help in the ICU.

“I got into this to take care of sick people, and COVID patients right now are the sickest,” he said. He noted that it’s been tough to deal with how rapidly COVID-19 patients become ill, and the deaths of some of those patients.

“Thankfully, we’ve also had some successes, people who were so sick but end up being able to walk out of our hospital,” he said. “It’s a real pleasure to see that happen, and a big thing, even for the nurses and staff that didn’t have direct contact with the patient. Everyone’s work helps, and we have to celebrate the victories.”

Fisher noted that though all patients are different, he and other medical staffers have often seen COVID-19 patients who present with a chest X-ray that looks like pneumonia.

“But things move quickly, we intubate them and they start going downhill fast,” he said. “The doctors and all on the medical team do everything possible, but it feels like the disease is hard to catch up to.”

He said it takes a toll on all hospital workers.

“You feel like you’re trying and trying and throwing everything you have against the disease, and there’s real despair when things don’t go well,” he said. “When that happens, we stick together and do things as nurses to lift each other up and it helps.”

Fisher, who has two sons and a daughter, said his involvement in Boy Scouts started when one of his boys joined the troop in Tappahannock.

“I started by going on campouts with him, then became an assistant scoutmaster and now this is my third year as scoutmaster,” he said, “and it’s been a blast.”

These days, meetings and instruction happens via Zoom and “patrol calls,” with boards of review happening over the phone. An Eagle Scout in Fisher’s troop has continued his work on a trail at historic Menokin in Richmond County and will soon get his award.

“I enjoy it,” he said, “but it’s almost a full-time job.”

Fisher said his assistance to older church parishioners grew from him making it known that folks could call on him if they had concerns or questions.

“Sometimes, something has happened and they’re not sure whether they should call 911, or they’ve missed a dose of medicine and don’t know how to proceed,” he said.

He’s glad to answer questions, and sometimes gives people rides to the doctor or hospital when they’re afraid to drive.

One thing he tries to tell everyone is how easily and rapidly the coronavirus can spread.

“I tell people to put glitter on their hands and then go about their day and see where it all ends up,” he said.

Fisher is sad to say that he thinks people’s experience with the virus will probably make shaking hands, hugging and other personal contact iffy even after this virus subsides.

“It will be a shame if we can’t go back to some of that contact, because it was often a part of connecting—more often with families than patients themselves,” he said, “especially when things got emotional and big decisions were being made.