“I will get through this. We will get through this.”
That heart-wrenching sentiment from registered nurse Andrea Nicholson summed up life on the frontlines at Boston Medical Center, the teaching hospital for Boston University’s School of Medicine, for doctors, nurses, social workers, administrators, and others who have worked tirelessly to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. They would come off their shifts emotionally and physically drained, which is when BU Today photographers Cydney Scott and Jackie Ricciardi captured most of them for this photo essay.
Three of their stories follow. To see all the stories, and the complete photo essay, click here.
Katherine Gergen Barnett
BMC vice chair of primary care innovation and transformation and program director of family medicine and MED clinical associate professor of family medicine
During the peak of the pandemic this spring, all I could think about was the safety of those I loved—my family, my community, my patients, “my” residents, my colleagues—and also the safety of all of those I had never met. This time of crisis made me feel more connected than ever to both the people in my life as well as this great sea of humanity. When I went outside and glanced into people’s eyes, I would feel this connection—like “we are all in this together and I see you.” I was also continually amazed that despite our world changing so dramatically and everything being different, the sky would still be blue, the sun would still be shining, and spring was still continuing to march its way forward.
I felt both panicked and grateful after completing a shift on the frontline during the pandemic. Panicked that I did not know what I was doing, that I was not donning and doffing my PPE correctly (no matter how many times I had prepared), that people around me would get sick, that I might very well get sick. All was the great unknown. But I also felt incredibly grateful. Grateful that I could serve in some way that was helpful, grateful for my colleagues at BMC, grateful for this incredible patient population who teaches me every day, grateful to my husband and children supporting me every day, and grateful every morning that I woke up and was healthy.
BMC registered nurse
I knew the staff was trained and ready to work, but I was still worried. I was comforted when the leadership team of the hospital provided us with all the supplies and resources we needed to be safe when taking care of patients. I thought of the staff that were getting sick. Sometimes I would think, “My God, I hope there’s not another transmission.” I thought of my family and friends—“How many people is this going to affect? Will this end? What is the new norm?”
I was devastated. I have never seen anything like this in my entire nursing practice or journey here in the US. I was scared and had to be strong because my staff depended on me to be strong. My family and children depended on me to be strong. In spite of my own fears and hopes. I remind myself, “I am a nurse and this is what I signed up for.” I’m ready. Resilient. I have the support of my BMC family, my own family and friends. I will get through this. We will get through this.
BMC critical care medicine physician and MED associate professor of medicine
We are lucky for now, with just one patient with COVID-19. So, let me tell you my thoughts from when I was working in the ICU during the peak Massachusetts surge in April. Many thoughts—sometimes conflicting—ran through my mind after a shift in the ICU during that time:
- I was grateful to work with so many courageous, selfless, and smart colleagues;
- I was tired of witnessing the same terrible clinical course repeat over and over;
- I was reassured after seeing our standard ICU therapies help get most patients through;
- I was deeply saddened by the deaths, often without family, but did not despair, because nurses held the patients’ hands throughout;
- I was angry to see so many patients—mostly representing society’s most vulnerable and underserved—so sick, while knowing that it did not have to be this way.