When I first heard murmurings of the coronavirus arriving in the United States, it didn't seem possible that we'd see the same devastation that had befallen Italy and China. In the beginning, I turned a blind eye simply because it hadn't hit home yet. It took two of my closest friends woking in healthcare and becoming first responders to a worldwide pandemic for me to grasp the severity of this virus. They're two of the most kindhearted people I've ever met, and their resilience continues to inspire me every day.
I've received tons of photos from those friends before and after their hospital shifts, each one featuring a new layer of protection apparel, looks of pure exhaustion, or scars from their face masks. Yet, I've never heard them complain or wish they had chosen a different career. It takes a special kind of person to work in healthcare, and I think it's easy to forget that they're learning about this virus in real time, just like the rest of us. Sure, they may be better equipped with the brain power to help create a solution, but that doesn't make them any less human.
It felt like our country flipped upside down in a mere matter of days. Suddenly, everyone was talking about quarantine and isolation. Sporting events and concerts were postponed; restaurants were only operating for takeout or delivery; airlines announced new travel-insurance packages for upcoming trips.
I'd do anything to go back and be those hopeful young girls again, which is why doing my small part to stay home seems like the easiest sacrifice.
The world was rapidly closing its doors, and here stood my friend, starting her first shift as a nurse in Minnesota. What should have been an exciting day quickly turned into a national emergency. Scratch the welcome breakfast and warm celebratory orientation. She had to memorize new patient procedures and safety regulations — which seasoned staff were also learning for the first time — on top of learning the ropes of her new workplace. Her sister, who is also a nurse, is now working on a COVID-19 floor. Although it's a blessing that they have each other during this uncertain time as both sisters and roommates, between the two of them, they're at an even higher risk of contracting the virus. My friend is now one month into her first "big-girl" job, and I couldn't be prouder.
A few hundred miles away in Wisconsin, my other friend, a certified nursing assistant, was also thrown into the storm. Like many first responders, she lives with her family and worries about their safety just as much as that of her patients. She has had to settle into a new normal, which includes following a strict sanitization procedure at the end of every shift. She immediately strips off her scrubs, mask, face shield, gown, and gloves, and when she gets home, all of her belongings go straight into the washer. This has become her new way of life, and she fully embraces it.
I've seen firsthand the sacrifices my friends have made to help fight this pandemic. They're putting their lives on the line every time they step into the hospital in the hopes of helping others. So, when I go on social media and see in-person happy hours or game nights still occurring, my heart aches. Unless you have a friend or loved one in the trenches, it can be hard to imagine how ugly this virus can be.
Five months ago, four of my best friends and I were packed like sardines around a sticky high top in a stuffy bar, together for the first time since graduation. We discussed our plans for 2020 and the location for our next reunion, as we don't all live in the same time zone, let alone the same state. We were hopeful and excited for the milestones that lied ahead.
I'd do anything to go back and be those hopeful young girls again, which is why doing my small part to stay home seems like the easiest sacrifice. We're all facing hardships during these uncertain times, but I ask that you also do your part and stay home. Healthcare workers have made a promise to keep us safe, so let's do the same for them. The sooner we get through this, the sooner I can thank my own heroes in person — and hug them, too.