LUDLOW, MA (WGGB/WHSM) -- The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on the entire country, especially healthcare workers.

Throughout this difficult time, thousands of local heroes came forward and shined during a time of darkness.

This week, the Western Mass News Rocky’s Ace Hardware Surprise Squad is recognizing an infectious disease nurse at the Hampden County Jail where they've had no positive cases of COVID-19.

The heroes among us are the amazing front line workers that are battling the coronavirus every single day.

That’s why Western Mass News has partnered up with Rocky’s Ace Hardware to highlight another local health care worker that goes above and beyond.

Stephanie Burgess, a wife and mother of two, began working at the jail in 2007 while studying to become a nurse.

Her dreams finally came true in 2010 when she graduated and became the infectious disease nurse at the jail.

“We are just so proud of our infectious disease nurse, Stephanie Burgess. She’s been with us for about 13 years, and if you didn’t know Stephanie, you didn’t know her. She just came in and did her job. She was very quiet, and she was very effective,” said Sheriff Nick Cocchi of the jail’s Sheriff’s Department.

As an infectious disease nurse, Burgess stepped up during the coronavirus pandemic, educating herself and planning ahead to keep her co-workers and the inmates healthy.

“To date, we have zero cases, and we are very proud of this zero cases of any COVID-19 with our offender population. We are one of the largest county correctional institutions in the Commonwealth, and to say that, it just goes to show you the processes and protocols in place are working,” Cocchi said.

Cocchi said this nurse has been able to protect about 1,000 staff members and just under 1,000 inmates.

“And we have a very big debt of gratitude to Stephanie Burgess, our nurse, who we are so proud about and so proud of how she handled the situation. I can’t think of a better person to be recognized today for a surprise,” he said.

That’s why Western Mass News Rocky’s Ace Hardware Surprise Squad stepped in.

“Thank you. I am really-- I like to stay behind the scenes a lot. This is a lot, but I am so grateful. I am just doing what I get paid to do, and this is really important to me, so thank you so much,” she said.

“But there is nobody out of all of our offenders and staff that doesn't know Stephanie Burgess today. We are better people, a safer institution and a healthier institution because of you, and this is just a simple thank you. You are our hero,” Cocchi said.

This healthcare hero caught up with Western Mass News after her surprise to share what she has been going through the last couple of months.

“It’s OK. Certainly it can be overwhelming. It’s quite a bit. It’s quite a task to take on, however, I have a phenomenal team of nurses I work with. And when it does get too overwhelming, we take a step back and hit the reset button, and take a quick minute to regroup,” Burgess said.

She credits her co-workers and staff at the Hampden County Jail for supporting her recommendations and also being her inspiration.

“We are all in tune with one another,” she said. “We work very, very well together, and that’s what drives me every single day.”

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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