Nurses and doctors aren’t angels, they’re superheroes
As doctors and nurses around the globe battle to save people from COVID-19 (coronavirus) and share their PPE wounds from the frontline of the crisis, we salute them for their bravery and bloody hard work.
As a kid I remember thinking that my parents were different to other mums and dads. While my mates had at least one parent pick them up from school and take them to their dance lessons or footy practice, I had to learn from early on to be independent. My parents were nurses and their job had to come before anything else. As a grown-up I now realise this taught me the importance of hardwork and putting others before yourself, but as a kid it could be tough going.
My mum mainly worked with elderly people so did a lot of end-of-life care and my dad worked in psychiatric nursing. Working shifts lasting up to 13 hours and sometimes copping abuse from patients, they'd come home shattered and even bruised, only to go to bed and do it all again the next day.
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But when people say nurses are "angels on earth", my mum always has a good laugh as she knows a lot of nurses swear too much and have the most morbid sense of humour of any profession. And I too would argue that nurses aren't angels, if the COVID-19 emergency has taught us anything, it's that they're real-life superheroes.
You see, nurses and doctors still have all the same shit to deal with that we do - fear and anxiety of how COVID-19 will change our world, toilet roll to buy, houses to clean, kids to get to daycare and bills to pay, it's just on top of that they're working around the clock to save our lives.
If anything positive has come out the cluster fuck that is coronavirus, it's that doctors and nurses are finally being recognised as the absolute trojans they've always been.
It was in Wuhan, China, that healthcare workers first came into the spotlight, when nurses wearing the full personal protective equipment (PPE) emerged with bloodied and bruised faces from their heavy duty goggles digging into their faces during their exhausting shifts. While COVID-19 was at its peak in China in February, healthcare workers were said to be so exhausted that they were falling asleep in waiting room chairs and grabbing a few hours of sleep before getting straight back into another gruelling shift.
Then as the virus tightened its grip on Italy, similar photographs emerged of hospital staff with bruised and bloodied faces from their PPE.
"I took this photo. After 13 hours in ICU after taking off all my protective devices, I took a selfie. I am not and I don't feel like a hero. I am a normal person, who loves his job and who, now more than ever, is proud and proud to do it by giving all himself on the forefront lines together," wrote Nicola Sgarbi after sharing his photo to Facebook.
Italian nurse Allesia Bonari, whose Instagram page before coronavirus shows a normal young woman brunching and hanging with friends like the rest of us, posted a PPE wounds photo saying that healthcare workers are just as afraid as anyone else but this won't stop them doing their job.
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Sono i un'infermiera e in questo momento mi trovo ad affrontare questa emergenza sanitaria. Ho paura anche io, ma non di andare a fare la spesa, ho paura di andare a lavoro. Ho paura perché la mascherina potrebbe non aderire bene al viso, o potrei essermi toccata accidentalmente con i guanti sporchi, o magari le lenti non mi coprono nel tutto gli occhi e qualcosa potrebbe essere passato. Sono stanca fisicamente perché i dispositivi di protezione fanno male, il camice fa sudare e una volta vestita non posso più andare in bagno o bere per sei ore. Sono stanca psicologicamente, e come me lo sono tutti i miei colleghi che da settimane si trovano nella mia stessa condizione, ma questo non ci impedirà di svolgere il nostro lavoro come abbiamo sempre fatto. Continuerò a curare e prendermi cura dei miei pazienti, perché sono fiera e innamorata del mio lavoro. Quello che chiedo a chiunque stia leggendo questo post è di non vanificare lo sforzo che stiamo facendo, di essere altruisti, di stare in casa e così proteggere chi è più fragile. Noi giovani non siamo immuni al coronavirus, anche noi ci possiamo ammalare, o peggio ancora possiamo far ammalare. Non mi posso permettere il lusso di tornarmene a casa mia in quarantena, devo andare a lavoro e fare la mia parte. Voi fate la vostra, ve lo chiedo per favore.
Translated into English her message reads: "I am afraid because the mask might not stick properly to the face, or I might have accidentally touched myself with dirty gloves, or maybe the lenses don't cover my eyes fully and something slipped by.
"I am physically tired because the protective devices hurt, the lab coat makes me sweat and once I'm dressed I can no longer go to the bathroom or drink for six hours.
"I am psychologically tired, like all my colleagues who have been in the same situation for weeks, but this won't stop us doing our job."
Thankfully we haven't yet seen photos of this seriousness in Australia but as our cases creep to 3000 (the total was at 2,985 at 6.30am this morning), it's obvious that the people bearing the brunt of this pandemic will be hospital staff who are risking their own lives to keep us alive. And how do they get remunerated for this sacrifice? Well, if you consider the starting wage for a registered nurse in Australia is $65,000, their salary is nowhere near enough to live on the annual $189,000 income needed per household to avoid mortgage stress in Sydney. But if I know anything from being raised by two nurses, it's that they don't do it for the money but for the love of helping people.
Even though we might not be able to give hospital staff more money, people around the world have been showing their thanks to medical workers by doing a nightly round of applause at 8pm each night. In Italy, Spain and more recently in the UK, people on lockdown have stood on their balconies, front door steps and leaned from windows to show their appreciation. My brother lives in Barcelona and says the noise gets louder each night as people express their gratitude to the staff who are keeping the healthcare system afloat by running into the flames while we stay home to flatten the curve.
So healthcare workers, we salute you. We know you're breaking your back to stop this virus, we know you're so shattered you could sleep standing up and we know you're the ones who will save us from this disaster. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
This was originally published on Whimn and has been reproduced with permission.