One Fighting to Save Lives, the other Working to Save Valley Businesses

By Crystal Harrell

The bond of family is a force to be reckoned with, and two sisters have put forth their strengths and efforts to support the desert community amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Betty Slimko is a critical care nurse in the ICU at Desert Regional Medical Center and Katie Stice is the President and CEO of the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce. Initially it would seem that the siblings are part of two very different professional worlds, but they maintain a unity through their commitment to serve those in need.

“Growing up, we were inseparable. Living in a small home means you are always together, and then there was a time when we had our own space to become who we are now respectively. We are professionals in our fields, living quite different lives but we’re both hard working, compassionate, and outliers. We were raised by a nurse and firefighter, so it was expected to always reach for more and hit the mark,” explained Stice.

While Stice’s prominent role at the Rancho Mirage Chamber holds no steady routine of normalcy in these recent times, her duties revolve around constantly reevaluating community and business needs and making the most impact on recovery and jobs.

Stice also has various weekly virtual meetings, which include US Chamber, the Coachella Valley Economic Recovery Team with the Supervisor and Congressional offices, and the Business Recovery Alliance: Coachella Valley, which Stice founded and is a featured speaker on a national show called “Chamber Focus” with 9,000 chamber executive members sharing best practices for businesses and advice.

“The chamber community is tight-knit. We will help rebuild America, one community and one small business at a time. From the start of the crisis, I took to social media because that is where everyone was weeding through information and sharing confusion and heartache. I showed up then and continue to connect with the greater community and lend support and guidance. Social media also keeps me informed as to what people need. I likely will see some common issues or challenges to problem-solve on a larger level,” shared Stice.

While their careers drift in different directions, the sisters got to work together on Operation Feed the Front Line and raised almost $7,000 and provided an estimated 700 meals to nurses at the three Coachella Valley hospitals. With Stice’s social media influence and restaurant contacts and Slimko’s knowledge of the medical teams, they were part of the perfect partnership.

“Currently, our work schedules are rough and Betty also stays a bit more isolated right now. She is cautious of being around the whole family because of the nature of her work. That is hard. When I do see her, I want to hug her, but I also keep my distance. It makes me think of all of the nurses who just worked 12-14 hours in war-like conditions and then may not come home to open arms due to fear. That breaks my heart,” stated Stice.

Betty Slimko’s role as an ICU nurse plays an integral part of how she regards herself as a person; it also means she is never truly “off duty”. She feels it is a privilege to work in the only Level ll trauma center in the Coachella Valley and have the opportunity to work with many talented medical professionals, including trauma and neurosurgeons, intensivists, pulmonologists, and nurses in multiple fields of critical care. The recent resurgence in new coronavirus cases has made Slimko’s work environment even more high-stakes, and Slimko feels the emotional toll on not only herself and staff, but the community as well.

“I hear the voices of many different levels of confusion, fear, anger, hopelessness, sorrow and denial, and I genuinely hope that our community knows in their hearts that our compassion for you has reached a peak at a level that was unimaginable until now during these very challenging times. Often times we are feeling helpless in some situations, but in fact, everyone from the hospital identifies with them. I think I can speak on behalf of healthcare workers when I say that during this time of constant change, our respect for patient autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice prioritization are the fundamentals that haven’t changed,” said Slimko.

Systemic operations and physical alterations may have changed within the hospital in order to accommodate more patients, but the fundamentals of patient care has remained the priority at Slimko’s job. The desire to make a difference has motivated Slimko from the very beginning of the pandemic, and she strives to stay true to her personal motto of ‘Use Your Power To Empower Others’. The thought of helping someone get through the most vulnerable moments in their life is something that Slimko decided to pursue years ago with a fervent want and need. Music has also been a driving force to pick her up during difficult days.

“Making my son proud of me is the most rewarding part of my job. When I hear him randomly tell the person in line at the grocery store that his mom can save your life and if you get hurt she can fix it because she has bandaids, it makes me feel like I’m doing something right for this little boy,” revealed Slimko.

The relationship Slimko has with her younger sister Katie has been a truly special bond ever since their childhood, when they would perform talent shows for the tenants in their apartment building at ages 11 and 8, respectively. Betty and Katie also have an older sister in San Diego named Anne who works for Partnerships with Industry. The sisters regard Anne as the “leader of the pack” and maintain in communication with her through the ups and downs of their daily lives, always acting as a balance to Betty’s wildness and Katie’s timidness.

“Now that we’ve grown as individuals and our priorities are different, we understand that growing up doesn’t mean growing apart. We can pick up where we left off at any time period. There is also strength in us together as there is independently. There is a special presence about us when we are together. It’s pretty magical, really. Our rhythmic belly laugh can be heard from across town and once you’ve experienced the Slimko Sisters in person, you will be entertained, loved and have a friendship por la vida!” said Slimko.

Slimko also volunteers with Gael Wetstone, a shock trauma RN, and they teach civilians tourniquet application and wound packing for major injuries through the Stop The Bleed Campaign.