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The Joys and Trials of Frontline COVID Workers: Stories of Their Experiences

Thank you doctor

It is impossible for anyone to adequately thank the frontline COVID workers for everything they have done during this pandemic. Their struggles, long work hours, the upsetting incidents they have to witness all make it clear how much we owe them. One way we can show our appreciation is by amplifying their voices and listening to their stories.

Here, I will talk about two impactful stories of frontline workers – one positive encounter and one negative one. These incidents show just how much grief they have to see and how some incidents make their labor worth it.

An Elderly Couple Diagnosed With COVID

Kaitlyn Weckerle, a frontline health care worker in New York City, shared her story with a teacher, Michael Tuccio. Her story was heartbreaking, to say the least. It involves a couple in their eighties, admitted to Mather hospital on different days.

The husband came first. He had a bad case of COVID, and the doctors immediately decided that he needed intubation. However, he did not want that. He felt that he could beat COVID on his own without the intubation.

Of course, since he was old, that did not work out. His condition worsened, and intubation became necessary. On the day he got intubated, his wife contracted COVID and got admitted to the same hospital. Both the husband and the wife were Kaitlyn’s patients. 

Here comes the upsetting part. Both of them were in critical condition. This meant that the doctors could not inform either of them that they were in the same hospital. While they battled COVID together, neither of them knew of the other’s condition.

The couple’s daughters were in contact with the doctors throughout the operation. They would call the hospital every day to inquire about their parents’ conditions. So, understandably, both of them were extremely upset when the couple passed away.

The saddest part of this story was that the couple was in the hospital at the same time, operated on by the same doctor. They even died around the same time. However, neither of them knew that the other had died. Both of them passed away without having the opportunity to meet each other or to say goodbye. On top of that, their daughters could not meet them before their death either.

Kaitlyn remarked that this incident was very difficult for her. Unfortunately, it was not the only one. She said that many of her patients who needed intubation did not survive. Some of them seemed as if they would recover but then got worse and often passed away. 

My heart breaks to think about what both the daughters and Kaitlyn may have gone through. The number of such incidents these frontline workers have to witness every day is unbelievable and calling Kaitlyn, and other healthcare workers like her brave would be an understatement.

Of course, it’s not always bad. Many healthcare workers have talked about how happy they are when a patient recovers or when a patient has an emotional conversation with their family members. It is these moments, they say, that encourage them to come back to work every day.


A Very Impressive Haircut

Another healthcare worker, Fabriana Margaglio, submitted her story for COVID Heroes. She is an ER nurse at Orange County, CA. She recounted a wonderful story about a patient to whom she gave a haircut. 

The patient in question had just come off ECMO and was on the ventilator. This meant that she was awake. Since she had been lying down for days, her hair was untidy, so her nurse was trying to brush it. The ECMO stopped the woman from turning fully, and the nurse could not lift her neck properly. 

The patient had a tight, stubborn knot in her hair which the nurse was struggling to untangle while she brushed the woman’s hair. Fabriana, sure of her ability to untangle the knot – owing to her past experiences brushing dreadlocks out of her friends’ hair – volunteered to help.

Fabriana walked in and attempted to untangle the knot in the woman’s hair. Unfortunately, it was not possible. The patient, who had very long hair, resignedly told Fabriana to cut her hair instead. Fabriana was reluctant since people with long hair often do not make such a decision easily. After checking to see if the woman was sure about her decision, she cut her hair.

Fabriana made sure that she gave the woman an attractive-looking haircut. In her words, she wanted it to be a “Victoria Beckham circa 2005” cut rather than a “Kate Gosselin circa any time” cut. When she finished, the patient’s hair was in a nice-looking bob, and Fabriana was able to salvage most of the hair in the back.

Something worth noting is that Fabriana did all of this with 1-inch long suture removal scissors. She was also wearing a beekeeper suit while she did it. It was impressive how she was able to cut her hair so well with such conditions in place.

After the cut, the patient FaceTimed her husband and showed him her new cut. He told her she looked beautiful. Later, the patient’s nurse said that when Fabriana talked to the patient and after she cut her hair, the patient smiled. It was the first time she had smiled after she woke up. Clearly, Fabriana’s cut and her conversations about Victoria Beckham and Kate Gosselin helped lift the woman’s spirits.

Fabriana was very happy to make the patient smile. She said that she felt great knowing that she had the power to make someone this happy. 

Final Words

These two incidents show the variety of emotions healthcare workers feel while they work. It was impressive to note that, despite so many obstacles and so many chances of things going wrong, these frontline workers keep a positive attitude, always making sure to help as many people as possible.

Fabriana and Kaitlyn’s stories show us just how much we need to thank frontline workers and how much we should appreciate them, especially during the pandemic.

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