How it started How it's going pic.twitter.com/cg32Tu7v0B— Kathryn Ivey (@kathryniveyy) November 22, 2020
The pandemic is leaving a mark on all of us, but healthcare and front-line workers are without a doubt bearing the brunt of it. Last week, ICU nurse Kathryn Nivey's now-viral "How it started . . . How it's going" post served as a much-needed reminder of exactly how heavy that burden is.
"I love being a nurse," Nivey wrote in the thread. "Didn't exactly expect to be a new nurse in the middle of a highly politicized pandemic but life comes at you fast and even in a pandemic, there's nothing else I want to do." Nivey treasures her patients, she wrote, which is why it's so "devastating" to watch them die "when those deaths were avoidable." She said it's even more devastating "when you watch them die the same way, time after time after time. It's devastating that basic common sense and decency has been politicized."
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Nivey said she took her "How it's going" photo after working in a COVID-19 unit. "I was struck by how exhausted I looked," she said. "I was drenched in sweat, my hair sticking straight up from the mask and face shield. The grooves left by the PPE on my face were deep and red, and I remember thinking that the reality of being a nurse was nothing like the ideas people seem to have of nurses in their heads, of cleanly pressed scrubs or white uniforms."
Nivey wanted her post to show people "what it's really like to take care of the patients that are at the heart of the pandemic that has somehow become a political flashpoint," she told BuzzFeed. Her patients shouldn't be seen as "political pawns or numbers or a lie or a hoax, they are people with families and homes and pets and jobs just like you, and they are not expendable," she added.
Her post sparked an outpouring of support and empathy, with other healthcare workers sharing their own stories and photos. Nivey called the response "overwhelming" and said she was "touched." "Not a single healthcare worker will arrive on the other side of this pandemic unscathed, and already we are starting to recognize in each other a certain look you get after long enough in the unit. . . . We've seen things that we can never forget."
"We've seen things that we can never forget."
Nivey's most powerful message was for the people who continue to doubt the existence or danger of COVID-19. "To the people doubting whether or not COVID is real, or whether it's as bad as the media and some politicians say it is, healthcare workers have no reason to lie to you," she told BuzzFeed. "We have gained nothing from this pandemic, and we, too, are tired of quarantine and lockdowns. But even more than that, we are tired of the endless waves of death and grief that could have been prevented. We want what we've always wanted: to take care of you and to keep you safe."