Stories from Healthy Mind

How front-line workers are finding hope and inspiration in the ongoing battle against COVID-19

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsMay 19, 2020

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Photo: Stocksy / Per Swantesson

As of mid-April (the most recent data available), nearly 9,300 United States health-care workers had contracted COVID-19 while transporting, treating, and caring for those infected with the disease. At least 27 have died while doing so. Front-line workers aren’t just medical professionals, though: They’re the cashiers at your grocery store, the full-time caretakers of people in assisted living facilities, the janitors who keep hospitals clean, and the workers who grow the food we eat and deliver the things we buy online. They are, by definition, essential. And even though they spend their days confronting the frightening realities of the virus, they’re still looking for—and finding—hope.

We’re so inspired by these COVID-19 heroes that we put out a country-wide to ask what’s keeping them motivated day after day to don their scrubs, face masks, gloves, and more to provide the services and care we need to get through these challenging times. Grab a Kleenex—this one’s going to be a tear-jerker.

“Our hope lies in all the patients who leave the hospital alive and happy”

“I am on the front line as a doctor in NYC and what gives me hope is that most of the world is working together to understand this virus and working together to stay strong. Our hope lies in all the patients who leave the hospital alive and happy. Our hope lies in our colleagues working together smoothly day to day to ensure safety and treat our patients.” —Raheleh Sarbaziha, MD, 37, doctor in a pop-up triage hospital in New York

“Nurses have come together as a team like never before”

‘Nurses have demonstrated dedication to the profession and an unmatched resilience and sense of compassion. I am inspired by all of the nurses that have stepped up to help and started travel assignments without knowing what they are going to encounter when they arrive. It’s been encouraging to watch my travel nurse friends in New York City. It’s motivational for me to see patients that are getting better.” —Rachel Norton, RN, 36, critical care travel nurse with NurseFly

“Life goes on even in the darkest of times”

“Right now, what’s giving me hope is seeing a huge line of people waiting outside the Magnolia Bakery on my block when I get home from work every night. It reminds me that life goes on even in the darkest of times—and not even a pandemic will keep people away from their beloved banana pudding and red velvet cupcakes!” —Colleen Topper, RD, 26, registered dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx

“The outpouring of support for small local farms makes me hopeful”

“People are signing up for CSAs (seasonal, local boxes of produce) like never before in an effort to support our farms, who are struggling from a severe loss of revenue from sources like restaurants, farmers markets and others. The farmers have been so grateful for our business. Many have even said they don’t know where they’d be without it.” —Mike Geller, 40, founder of Mike’s Organic CSA delivery service in Stamford, Connecticut

“I feel like I have 87 grandparents”

“Our residents give me hope. I feel like I have 87 grandparents—each having seen so much in their lives… despite all that is happening, they are our cheerleaders, just as much as we are for them. They know we don’t have all the answers and things change every day, but we have each other.” —Pamela Mcintosh, RN, 40, health services director at Brightview Senior Living in Maryland

“My mom”

“My mom was hospitalized for complications due to COVID-19 and she was released nine days later. Last Sunday they were ready to intubate her… [now] she is getting stronger every day. It’s the scariest thing we went through, but I am so thankful I still have my mom!” —Dajilis Johnson, RN, 42, a nurse in an outpatient chemo unit that’s treating COVID-19 patients on Staten Island

“The collaboration between physicians and nurses has been great”

“I have been extremely proud of how well our nurses have responded to the pandemic crisis. Our MICU [medical intensive care unit] nurses and everyone floating into the COVID-19 units have been phenomenal. And the collaboration between physicians and nurses has been great. Montefiore Hospital discharged its 5,000th [COVID-19] patient. Hopefully NYC has seen the worst of it and will get back to a new normal during the summer. Hope, solidarity, hard work, kindness and love.” —Mike, RN, 51, cardiac ICU nurse in upstate New York

“Nothing gives me hope more than the progress my patients are making”

“In the past weeks, my hope has come watching my patients make exponential progress. From being intubated on a ventilator in the ICU, to walking around the room with me for the first time in days, laughing and smiling, and eventually being released to go home to their loved ones after a long and difficult battle with this virus. Nothing gives me hope more than the progress they are making.” —Stephanie Hemsel, PT, 27, acute care physical therapist at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey

“Science”

“Science. The amount of talent and effort and just sheer hard work that scientists are putting into understanding COVID-19 is what is going to get us out of this crisis. Our political leaders and systems are failing us—it’s going to be science and technology that save us” —Nate Favini, MD, 37, medical lead of Forward, in San Francisco, CA

“I’m hopeful that people have found some part of their lives that they missed”

“I’m hopeful that people have and will bring in those activities that they previously didn’t. For instance, I now ride bikes with my three-year-old almost daily before the sunsets and I also play with sidewalk chalk in the morning during the day on my day off, and I think that that is something that I will continue to integrate in my daily routine. And I’m hopeful that other people will find some of their own routines that they implement to make their lives more enriched.” —Kate Callaway, PA, 38, NCCPA-certified physician assistant in Florida

“Hearing ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ over the hospital speakers”

“I typically work the night shift, and I remember when a colleague in the ICU came over to tell me that a patient I initially treated who had been severely ill with COVID had been discharged home. We stabilize and treat each patient initially, and often we see them at their worst. But we don’t always get to hear about their recovery. They play music overhead each time a COVID patient is extubated [is taken off of artificial breathing machines] or discharged. Hearing ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ over the speakers is uplifting now because we know that a patient is on the path to recovery or headed home.” —Caitlyn Hammermeister, RN, 30, Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Illinois 

“My resilient kids”

“I’m hopeful that we are all adjusting to new changes, things we‘ve never done before and we’re working it out. Virtual doctor’s visit, for example with my daughter’s pediatrician. At first I was doubtful, but the experience was positive. I’m hopeful that while we make day to day changes for who knows how long, we’ll be able to adjust and grow and be open to change. I see my kids and they’re good at adjusting to things quickly. It’s nice to see they are still able to flourish now that we’re in this two months plus.” —Kate Markova, PharmD, 35, Walgreens pharmacist, New York City

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