January 24, 2021

Hospital parking lot weed transformed into Christmas tree

While 2020 has been a whirlwind for most health care workers, the staff at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula still have a sense of humor and the Christmas spirit. A small tree that’s a dead ringer for the Charlie Brown Christmas tree sprung up in the hospital’s parking lot early December.

Heather Higginbotham Koch, lab technician at Singing River Hospital, noticed something strange in the parking lot while on her way to work a shift Dec. 1. A defiant weed sticking out of the concrete had a single ornament on it. She said she thought it was cute and wanted to share it.

“My first reaction was ‘Oh my gosh, this is great,” Koch said. “I thought it was super cute, so I snapped a picture of it and shared it. Everyone seemed to dig it so I thought it was just a little something to make people smile.”

Sarah Duffey, Singing River Hospital media relations director, said in the beginning, they did not realize how much of a difference this small act of holiday spirit would mean.

“We are not sure who exactly, but someone from our team put a red bow on a weed growing in the parking lot, and within 48 hours it had decorations, lights, and a tree skirt,” Duffey said.

Officer Jessica Williams with the Singing River Campus Police said she first noticed the tree out in the parking lot when staff began decorating it, so fellow Singing River Campus Police Officer Jeff Barnes and Williams decided to make it a tree skirt.

“Then the next day someone had added lights,” Williams said. “It was truly inspiring to see this ‘Charlie Brown’ tree rise up from beneath the concrete decorated a bit more each day by members of different areas of the hospital. (It) reminded me of the resilience of our team and was symbolic of the year we had and how our team, despite what we’re going through, can find joy in the little things around us.”

Koch said decorations were added for two to three days to the Christmas tree.

“It definitely made my spirits brighter for sure,” Koch said. “It was such a small and simple thing, but it truly made me smile walking into work.”

As health care workers have experienced the strain working on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, the tree added a bit of hope.

“I always say, it’s the little victories,” Koch said. “It doesn’t take much to make me smile.”

TREE BLOWN AWAY, BUT CHRISTMAS SPIRIT REMAINS

Duffey said on Dec. 3, the Gulf Coast experienced some bad weather and the tree was blown away. Duffey said the facilities team cleaned up what was left of the tree and decorations that scattered across the parking lot.

Williams noticed the grounds crew cleaning up the tree, so she and Justinn Smathers, nurse and Singing River Hospital ICU manager, and Kandis Stanley, nurse in the surgery department, placed caution tape around where the tree had been.

“We knew how much it meant to the team and wanted to be sure their efforts were not forgotten,” Williams said.

When Mandalyn Krebs, employee relations coordinator at Singing River Hospital, saw that the tree was gone, Krebs and Krystyna Schmitt, advertising manager at Singing River Hospital, went to Lowe’s to replace it with a real tree.

Day by day, the staff added decorations.

A fully decorated Christmas tree is now in the parking lot where the original tree stood. Koch said although people missed the original tree, the new tree was a cheery addition.

“I think some of us had really grown attached to the little weed, but it has been nice having an actual tree there because other people have been decorating it,” Koch said. “It’s been kind of a super cool team effort to keep the spirit of the tree alive and well — especially after this year.”