Inside the mind of a first responder

Nurses+at+the+Sutter+Health+Hospital%2C+in+San+Jose%2C+wear+face+shields+made+by+Dr.+Ahn-Quan+Thinh+Nguyen.+

Courtesy of Dr. Ahn-Quan Thinh Nguyen

Nurses at the Sutter Health Hospital, in San Jose, wear face shields made by Dr. Ahn-Quan Thinh Nguyen.

A petite, middle-aged woman hustles into the hospital. She wiggles her dry, cracked hands into her sticky latex gloves, and throws a gown onto her sore, aching body. The same N95 mask that she used yesterday gets slipped onto her face. She pulls on her goggles and wraps her long brown hair into a hairnet while taking a deep breath. She does this all while wiping away her tears and walking into the waiting room. 

Fear now envelopes almost the entire world, and it’s not only the general public that is feeling it. First responders, the brave and selfless, men and women who put their own lives on the line to save ours have been experiencing the worst of it. However, even with their strength and generosity, one can only stay strong for so long before feeling helpless during this pandemic. 

Many first responders, especially doctors and nurses, have been feeling the effects of the pandemic first hand. Going to work every day is no longer the same. Now, it is as if they are walking into the virus that everyone has been told to avoid. 

The fear of catching the virus has driven many doctors and nurses toward anxiety and left many in emotional distraught. 

According to NPR, Dr. Kimberly Brown, an emergency room physician in Northern Mississippi, has been feeling the whirls of emotion that come along with her hard-working job.

“I’m dealing with a lot of anxiety. Right now, I feel really alone because very few people can understand where my head is at. I’m just worried about getting sick. I’m worried about people around me getting sick,” Brown said.

But what is the key factor that is fueling the fear of catching and spreading the virus? 

The answer is simple: a lack of supplies. 

Many hospitals in the U.S., especially in New York, are overflowing with COVID-19 patients. Along with this, supplies and space have been running out. 

According to a nurse located in Sacramento, she has been wearing the same N95 mask for the past week. Homemade fabric masks have recently been donated to her hospital. Even though the masks don’t protect her or her colleagues against COVID-19, they provide a sense of security, and as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) becomes scarce, the concern for the safety of first responders and patients rises. 

As far as we know, doctors and nurses could be spreading the virus to patients, creating an incubator for the virus inside hospitals.

Health care workers are also concerned about bringing the virus back home to their family and loved ones. Some have moved into hotels to isolate themselves. 

However, all this commotion, the stress, the anxiety, the fear, started from the lack of PPE. 

Many individuals have been taking action to support first responders by donating homemade PPE. 

For example, the Wang sisters have been creating handmade masks out of fabric. 

 Dr. Ahn-Quan Thinh Nguyen, an interventional cardiologist at the Sutter Health Hospital in San Jose, started making reusable face shields at home.

As the coach of the robotics team at Saratoga High, Nguyen used 3D printers and eventually created a face shield that could withstand bleach and other sanitizing chemicals. Now, he is working with MAKER NEXUS to create thousands of face shields. 

Even with the help of individuals like Nguyen, first responders continue to feel the pressure of the virus. 

However, first responders continue to get pushed by their colleagues to look on the bright side. 

According to the Washington Post, Janett Perez, a nurse in New York, said, “Many COVID patients pass away, but you can’t determine others won’t do well. So even though we’ve seen deaths occur, we also see people do better…we need to treat them with the expectation that they [COVID patients] will.” 

Perez’s positive attitude sheds light on the bright side of nursing in the situation the world has been thrown into. She emphasizes the strength and power that first responders contain and encourages them all to hold their heads high. 

Permission given by Dr. Nguyen. Face shields made by Dr. Nguyen.

Perez said,” This is a battlefield, and we’ve turned ourselves from nurses, into soldiers.”