Neighbors surprise tired nurse after rough day at local hospital

MCGREGOR, Texas (KWTX) A Central Texas nurse on the frontlines of caring for some of the dozens of area residents with COVID-19 returned home from one of her most difficult days on the job to find her house covered with signs of support from neighbors.

Nurse Melissa Ripley says when she pulled into her driveway Tuesday evening after her shift and found the surprise messages, she was so overwhelmed with emotion she sat in her parked car and cried. (Courtesy photos)

McGregor resident Melissa Ripley has been a nurse since 2001 and has spent most of those years working at Ascension Providence Hospital in Waco where she supervises nurses who work directly with COVID-19 patients.

Tuesday, she said, was one of the more difficult days she’s faced, although she wouldn’t say why.

Tuesday, however, was the same day that G.W. Carver Middle School Principal Phillip Perry died at the hospital of complications from COVID-19.

He was the first person whose life the virus claimed in McLennan County.

Ripley says when she pulled into her driveway Tuesday evening after her shift and found the surprise messages, she was so overwhelmed with emotion she sat in her parked car and cried.

"I pulled up and I was crying," Ripley said.

"It had been a rough day so coming home to that it's lifted my spirits so much."

The signs that first greeted her at the end of the driveway read "you are our favorite nurse" and "through thick and thin."

Another read "dedicated as hell."

Friend Lorna Hering helped make the signs and delivered some treats along with four other close girlfriends of the nurse.

She said Melissa had sent a text that morning asking for prayers that sounded "different," so they knew they needed to do something.

"I was like 'I got to do something. I got to do more,’" Hering said.

"We wanted her to know that maybe we had taken it for granted that she's on the frontlines. She's our girl,” she said.

“Maybe we didn't realize until she asked us to pray for her and voiced her concerns; we didn't realize the real scope of what doctors and nurses are dealing with."

Ripley is a married mother of three grown children and grandmother of two, none of whom she can see right now because she's observing strict social distancing guidelines.

She also has an underlying heart condition that puts her in a higher risk category should she contract the virus, suffering with a heart arrhythmia which requires a pacemaker and defibrillator.

Despite the risk, Ripley says this moment in time is why she decided to become a nurse.

"I went to nursing school for a reason and these are the days we were called for," she said.