More than 580,000 people across the United States have contracted the coronavirus, making the jobs of those doctors and nurses on the front lines combating its spread that much harder.
But, they continue to fight—some more than 12-hour shifts per day, Reuters reports.
These warriors are fighting against the invisible enemy and here are their stories.
Some nurses who spoke to Reuters described one of the most difficult moments they face is watching helplessly as a patient passes away to the disease, isolated away from their loved ones:
One of the hardest moments of a recent work day for registered nurse Julia Trainor was intubating a patient, and then calling the patient’s husband so he could talk to his wife. He was not allowed in the hospital.
“I had to put him on the phone and hold the phone to her ear as he told her that he loved her so much, and then I had to wipe away her tears,” says Trainor, who works in a surgical intensive care unit. “I’m used to seeing very sick patients and I’m used to patients dying, but nothing quite like this.”
Ernest Capadngan, a nurse at an unnamed Maryland hospital’s biocontainment unit, similarly described: “The hardest moment during the shift was just seeing COVID patients die helpless and without their family members beside them.”
Tracey Wilson, a nurse practitioner at the same hospital described one moment with Reuters where she had to defy her patient’s request of seeing his own wife: “I had a patient fall out of bed today and I had to call his wife and tell her and she couldn’t come to see him, even though she pleaded and begged to come see him.”
Tiffany Fare, a nurse in the hospital’s biocontainment unit added” “One of the hardest moments was having to see a family member of a COVID patient say goodbye over an iPad. You can’t see your loved one and then they’re gone.”
Another reality facing these medical professions is their own health and wellbeing.
Cheryll Mack, a registered nurse in the emergency room, told Reuters that she forces herself just 15 minutes outside of the hospital just to breathe.
“It has given me relief, just fresh air,” Mack says, noting the difficult demands of her position.
Martine Bell, a nurse practitioner, told the outlet she takes “a very long, very hot shower. And then I usually sit on the couch and… read a book or watch some mindless reality show in order to destress.”
These workers are also unable to just go home, as they must first attend to the clothes they are wearing, potentially contaminated by the coronavirus:
Laura Bontempo, an emergency medicine physician, says she removes her work clothing and gear in a decontamination tent she has set up outside her home, and then wraps herself in a towel and runs inside to shower.
Then she puts the scrubs in the washing machine by themselves to not contaminate any other items.
Meghan Sheehan, 27, a nurse practitioner, says she drives home each night without turning on the radio and uses the quiet time to reflect on her shift and her patients. When she gets home, she tries hard not to dwell on the day.
“I go home, I shower immediately and try to have dinner with family, and try to not talk about it,” she said. “Nighttime is definitely the hardest because you’re constantly thinking about what the next day will bring.”