As I reflect over the last 7 months of my life as an essential worker, I think of my first reactions to the news of the Coronavirus that was killing thousands in Eastern Asia, Europe, and how cases were beginning to show up in the USA. Of course, I became excited with curiosity of gaining knowledge and insight into this daily news headliner, but as the days progressed, the death toll in these areas, as well as US cases, began to rise - so did the emotions of fear and panic. All I remember hearing from my husband was, "You wanted to work in Healthcare." God Had Chosen Me.
My husband was also an essential worker as a chef for a catering company, but he expressed no fears -just gratefulness to be able to have a job. He was happy that he did not have to stay at home to work, as were most of his clients whom he prepared lunches for. But then the lunch orders were reduced, hours were cut, subsequently my husband was let go. Then his panic and fear began, mine got worse. Luckily, within a week he returned to his company as a salaried, rather than hourly employee. In addition, he was hired to work part-time as a home improvement builder. God Stepped In!
For me, working as a Phlebotomist during this pandemic was unreal. I remember driving North on I-77 headed to work at 6:00am on a Sunday morning and there were no other cars on the expressway! Just these flashing signs reading COVID-19 Alert. It was a scene out of a movie. I would usually be on the lookout for the NC State Troopers who would be parked in the median, so I could get to work on time, lol. But not today - the road was all mine; I was in control of my destiny. The highway was deserted, no one was there, But God!
My co-workers and I would report to work excited about what was going on outside. You must understand that we spent 10-12 hours a day in one large room 4-6 days a week. We would constantly question our donors as to what they thought about everything going on in the world. One day, a state trooper came in to donate platelets and I told her about my experience driving on the highway. She looked at me laughing saying, “Girl, we are all at home too! We are not stopping or pulling anyone over unless we are called in.” She then said, “I’m not approaching anybody, and I don’t want anyone rolling their windows down.” Her fears turned to laughter allowing us to have a moment of fun in a new world of fear and uncertainty. God wants to Care for Us, too.
Yet, despite our curiosity and excitement, stress was growing. Our panic attacks at work included demanding more PPE now! We wanted masks - it was not fair that we should have to work without them. We did finally receive masks almost a month later, but these masks were not what we expected. We received painter masks! We were grateful when surgical masks arrived about a month later. The masks were an integral piece of our daily uniform, undergoing inventory and receipt checks. Then, to everyone’s shock and dismay, we could not breathe! There wasn’t any circulation in the room where we worked. I began to experience some dizziness, and frequent yawning. As a Phlebotomist working with needles and ID labeling our attention to detail needed to be 100%, but this new normal, working in this setting, was incredibly challenging. God is With Us Always.
In April, my company began studies to assist with COVID-19 vaccine trials which meant that donors who had tested positive would be coming in to donate platelets. Panic and fear appeared again. I began to really think about my job, my calling, my career, my health and my family. I reported to work as scheduled, but I began to notice a decline in the number of donors scheduled due to our responsibility to socially distance, onset of illness with staff and donors, and the fear now prevalent in the community. God is my Refuge.
As an Essential Worker during the COVID-19 Pandemic, I was required to maintain the highest level of professionalism in providing customer service to our donors by making them feel comfortable and safe throughout their donation process. Oftentimes that meant watching CNN alongside with them, maintaining a positive attitude about the virus and life, in general. Social media posts made by many of my friends who were setting up home offices and attending Zoom meetings in pajamas camouflaged with scarves and blazers made my work situation even less desirable. I questioned my passion and love of working in healthcare.
Some days there was good news. I remember one day a coworker was eating pizza and I commented on the aroma. She stated that the restaurant was giving away free pizzas! My coworkers and I became so excited only to learn that most businesses were offering essential workers discounts on almost everything! Free doughnuts, coffee, and the best freebie ever: CROCS! Rejoice, for is Good!
Eventually, I decided to leave direct care because of my family and my close exposure to others. I am still working in the healthcare industry, but in a capacity, which allows me to feel safer in caring for my 79-year-old mother, husband, stepdaughter, and niece. Won’t He Do It!
I have experienced a lot of death, losing close loved ones, comforting friends and loved ones who also experienced loss. This Battle is not yours But God’s.
The news stories of the front-line physicians and nurses in New York were alarming yet their personal stories as relentless first responders in this pandemic were inspiring. I was proud to belong to a community of givers who thrived on seeing others happy, healed, cared for as their own. Oftentimes they leave work to single even lonely lives because of the sacrifices made to excel in their careers - putting their own families, children, even themselves second to uphold their oath to “Save Lives”.
The oath of saving lives has become “I will lay down my life for you” for all essential workers entering their place of work each day. I had to prepare myself physically and spiritually by boosting my immune system daily through exercise, nutrition & vitamins, plus rest. I pray more each day to release anxiety, worry, and fear over job loss or sickness - leaving everything to God, leaning on HIM knowing that HE will provide for all my needs.