From the Frontlines

Guest post by Natalie Hawkins

I have been told by several people, and have even told myself, “what a time this is to start this career”. Working as a respiratory therapist (RT) in the midst of a Global Pandemic when RTs are needed most, is a daunting task. Things are not “normal” in the hospital.

Each day starts with a self evaluation making sure the virus is not suspected to be developing within you, and a distribution of one single face mask, expected to last the entire twelve hour shift. It is a constant reminder of how vulnerable I am to the virus, and how little the resources are to protect against it. If you are wondering, the answer is, Yes... I am scared. We are all scared in healthcare. Every day we go to work there is a huge risk of contracting COVID-19.

Fear & Sadness

When pursuing a career in healthcare, I never imagined my own health would be of any consideration, or that my own safety would be in any danger. In healthcare, I am not really worried about any disease that I could contract from a patient; the focus is the patient and how to save their life. But these days everybody in the hospital is on high alert, wondering if today could be the day they contract the potentially fatal COVID-19, which creates unwanted and unhelpful anxiety.
The pace of coronavirus moving through the hospital is wild. For example, on a Monday I administered a breathing treatment to a patient completely untouched by the virus. The following day she was suspected to be a victim. There was a fear I felt immediately of whether or not I may have contracted the virus as well. This thing is fast and unrelenting.

In order to attempt to shift the tide, each day involves new strategies to slow to spread within the hospital and guard ourselves more effectively. It is an ever-changing job description. Sometimes the new plans seem to work, and other times our efforts feel like a big failure. The rollercoaster of new initiatives can be exhausting at times.

Not every patient who gets COVID-19 dies or has severe complications, but it is hard to know what each patient’s outcome will be. Each person is alone, afraid, and fighting for their lives. Doctors, RT's, and nurses are trying their best to come up with ways to treat these patients, but are not always effective. Sadly, some of these precious people are dying alone, without their loved ones getting the chance to say goodbye.

Faith & Hope

This is part of why I felt God put a calling on my life to be a healthcare worker. Each person in the hospital presents a different life story. Many patients have a visitor every time you interact with them while some are so lonely and afraid. Being able to be there for these patients in their weakest, most vulnerable state, is what truly brings me satisfaction. For me, being able to hold someone’s hand, fix their pillow, or just sit and listen brings joy to my heart. There may be no one there to listen, care, and love them anymore.

Jesus shines the brightest through me in these moments of compassion with patients. They get to see that someone cares and is willing to help when they need it the most. Although I cannot physically pray over a patient unless the patient brings it up, I get to pray for them in the hallway once I leave their room or on my car ride home. I get to do more for them than just helping them try to breathe easier. I cry for their souls and their eternity. I plead to God for them as they suffer. As a Christian, I hope and pray that my fellow believers in the hospital do the same.

Even in the unknown and the anxiousness, I truly am secure and have what some people in the world do not: Jesus. Even if I do contract this virus and things take a turn for the worse, at least I can know that God gave me the privilege of taking care of and comforting the lonely, the sick and the dying. My prayer is that my co-workers, and my patients are able to see Jesus through me.

May no virus dim my Jesus shining through me and my worried heart. May nothing hinder me from my calling to care for patients. Pray God would give me the courage I need to do my job and serve my Lord. I want to be a soft armrest for those without family there to say goodbye, and be a ray of hope to those who are fighting to recover. Jesus is the light that's needed right now. He is in you as well as in me. So don’t dim your light for anything. The world is depending on it.

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