COVID-19 from the eyes of a frontline hero

Lily Koller ‘20, Photo Editor

 

Coronavirus. A word none of us heard before 2020, yet somehow now it is all we talk about. With illness spreading and deaths piling, it feels like a real-life Contagion. We saw what was going on in China, then Italy, but I never imagined how the virus would affect my own home. My mom has been a registered nurse for over 20 years, and never did she expect to work through a pandemic. It is not exactly something you prepare for.

My mom’s hospital went from anxiously anticipating their first positive patient to being swamped with the virus. Out of the 16 units, 14 were converted to taking care of COVID-19 patients, as well as all operating rooms. The hospital was soon on lockdown and went from your typical day to day operations to solely focusing on saving the lives of those diagnosed with the virus.

At first, the hospital administration quickly formed a task force to learn how to prepare for this internal disaster. Prior to this pandemic, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was very limited, and they would have never expected it to be a necessity for every employee. They received just one N-95 mask a week, and the extensive wearing of the PPE resulted in bruised noses, sore cheeks, and raw hands from all of the hand-washing.

In the beginning, the tests were taking five to seven days to get results, and because of this time delay, my mom’s floor was swamped with PUI’s (Person Under Investigation). It was quite eerie to be in the unknown if a patient had this deadly virus, and all they could do was wait for the results. The nurses and doctors wore N-95 masks, gowns, gloves, and shields to avoid this virus at all costs. Despite all of these measures taken, it was still a possibility to obtain the virus, which made it a stressful situation for all.

My mom specifically offered to take care of COVID-19 patients on her unit first because she did not have young children at home, like her coworkers. They would only go into the rooms as little as possible, and only one person would enter a room a day. There would also be runners bringing in supplies to lessen the likelihood of employees coming into contact with the COVID-19 patients. It became very scary when fellow doctors and coworkers contracted the virus and were in the Intensive Care Unit on ventilators. 

Nurses have had an outpouring of community support which has been much appreciated. They have upgraded from cafeteria food to catered meals from Tropical Smoothie to Chipotle to Cantorro’s. Although these gestures were well deserved, they did not go unnoticed.

Because of the state’s social-distancing efforts and the flattening of the curve, cases have gone down and my mom’s unit is no longer the destination for all COVID-19 patients. All healthcare workers in her hospital are now wearing an N-100 mask in this new normal. My mom worked mandated overtime 50+ hours a week in a draining environment, and she could not have done it without her team of healthcare heroes. COVID-19 taught her that life can change in an instant, and if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.

 

Photo courtesy of nurse.org

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