Our Healthcare Heroes

With COVID-19 infecting millions, healthcare workers are working on the front lines of a dangerous pandemic. Their kids are proud, but worried.

Since the beginning of COVID-19, doctors and nurses in the Lexington community have worked diligently to take care of patients battling this fast-spreading virus. They have risked their lives every day going into work, making them the heroes of our community.

“The risk to our healthcare workers is one of the great vulnerabilities of our health-care system in an epidemic like this,” Liam Yore, a board member of the Washington state chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians said.

When the pandemic first hit the U.S., many hospitals and doctors’ offices had to make changes to their normal way of treating people to limit face-to-face contact because the virus can be spread through close proximity to other people.

Our patients were scared of coming into clinics or going to hospitals, understandably so.

— Dr. Alina Rizea

“At the beginning of this pandemic, there were about three weeks of confusion and struggling on deciding how to safely take care of our patients,” Dr. Alina Rizea, a physician at Healthfirst Bluegrass Clinic, said. “Our main concern was and is that none of the other diseases stop happening while having a pandemic. Our patients were scared of coming into clinics or going to hospitals, understandably so. We are doing a lot of visits and consults through the phone and only bringing patients into the clinic when absolutely necessary.”

Dr. Alina Rizea’s daughter, sophomore Nicole Rusu, has watched her mom come home from work each day knowing that she could’ve been exposed to the virus.

“It’s a little scary seeing your mom go out and get up close with the virus, especially because in the clinics. They don’t have testing kits, so you don’t know who really has it. On the other hand, I am proud of her for helping in this time of need,” Rusu said.

Although some doctor’s offices are able to provide over-the-phone consultations, many hospitals are not, causing healthcare workers to feel the pressure of this fast-spreading pandemic.

A healthcare worker in New Jersey has created a way, through a Google Form, for nurses and doctors to document their poor working conditions. Here, there are many experiences that show what it is truly like to be a frontline worker during these difficult times.

“[I’ve] Never seen anything like this. Protocols change minute to minute if there are any at all. I can no longer trust the CDC. For the first time in my career I am scared to go to work,” wrote a nurse from Texas with 17 years of experience.

This nurse isn’t the only one worried and afraid of doing her job.

An Instagram poll showed that approximately 31% of students have parents working in the medical field.

 “As of right now it is exciting and a little scary to be a nurse. Exciting to be considered a hero in these hard times and scary that I am exposed to this possibly deadly virus and may expose my family to it,” Angel Tauson, an ER nurse at the University of Kentucky hospital, said.

Tauson is the mother of Dunbar sophomore Hayden Woods. Along with the normal worries of a teenager, Tauson said that her daughter now has to deal with her being on the front lines and having exposure to the virus.

“It is scary knowing that my mom is exposed to the virus. I am thankful, however, that she is considered an essential worker and still has a job, unlike many others,” Woods said.

Across the country, health care workers are being infected each day due to exposure to the Coronavirus. As of April 14  the CDC reported that 9,000 health care workers have been infected by the virus, and 27 of these workers have died.

On top of worrying about getting infected, doctors and nurses also have to worry about not spreading the virus to their family members.

According to an Instagram poll from PLD Lamplighter, at least 31% of students at Dunbar have parents who work in the medical field.

“I am always worried about spreading germs to my family when I get home after work, but more so now than before. I have devised a decontamination regimen I do after I get off work to keep anything that might be contaminated from being brought into the house,” Tauson said.

In Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear has allowed for medical students and first responders to stay in lodges at state parks to prevent the virus from spreading to their families.

“The only overnight guests allowed at the two parks are first responders and health care workers who need places to self-quarantine,” Gov. Beshear said.

Students with parents in the medical field say that staying away from families means giving up a lot: No kisses goodnight. No backrubs. No eating dinner together. No game nights. And most of all, no hugging one another after a hard day’s work.

For many families, washing hands and keeping a distance is the best they can do.

“I have been worried that my mom could, unknowingly, spread the virus, especially because I have diabetes. We usually try to stay a little bit apart and wash our hands as much as we can,” Rusu said.

I have been worried that my mom could, unknowingly, spread the virus, especially because I have diabetes.

— Nicole Rusu

The threat of the virus is much more real for single parents in the medical field because if they were to contract the virus, their children would have to take on extra responsibilities around the house.

“I am worried about getting sick because I am a single parent and my kids would have to be the ones to take care of me,” Tauson said.

Her daughter is hopeful that her mother will not contract the virus.

“I am worried about my mom getting the virus, but hopefully she will be able to stay safe. There is a possibility that my siblings and I would catch the virus, but I hope that we do not,” Woods said.

As if having to treat these patients isn’t enough, Tauson said that hospitals are also running low on PPE (personal protective equipment). Without the needed amounts of medical masks, protective eye gear, and surgical gowns, it is getting harder and harder for medical workers to protect themselves against the virus.

“We are reusing our N95 masks and putting a surgical mask on top of it when in patients’ rooms. We also use lots of sanitizer and lots of handwashing,” Tauson said.

During these shortages, the federal government has issued several responses concerning the conditions that healthcare workers are now facing.

According to The New York Times, President Donald Trump said “the federal government’s not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping them. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.”

At the state level, Gov. Beshear has announced that Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance will issue wage replacement benefits for first responders that have been quarantined due to coronavirus.

“That should also give confidence to our healthcare employees that are out there,” Gov. Beshear said. “If they end up having to be at home because of their work we’re going to take care of them.”

Other campaigns have also been started to support the frontline workers.

The #LightItBlue campaign aims to show support for frontline workers by lighting various landmarks blue.

First started in the United Kingdom, the #LightItBlue campaign shows support by lighting blue lights across cities such as New York City, Dallas, and Seattle.

In Lexington, a car parade was held on April 10 to honor healthcare workers. Construction workers and police worked together to put on this parade in front of the UK hospital.

“We just want to thank those who are saving lives every day, risking their own lives, selfless acts of kindness and love. And we just wanted to do something to acknowledge those people,” Gooch Construction concrete superintendent Rick McDonald said.

Despite these poor conditions and along with the support of their community, workers in the medical field are ready to tackle each new day.

“While we are all worried about this fast-spreading virus, I am trying to not be more worried than others. I am doing all I can to potentially prevent that. Beyond that, it is in God’s hands,” Dr. Rizea said.