Feeling Pride and Terrified…Our New Normal

Feeling pride and terrified at the same time seems to be the new norm at my house. As each new day approaches the uncertainties and fears can sometimes be crippling. While there are so many other families around us that are staying home, 4 out of the 5 of us living here under the same roof are leaving on a daily basis to care for others. My 2 older daughters are nurses and my youngest works in an assisted living center while pursuing her master’s degree in Forensic Science at Arcadia University. These times are very trying and sometimes seem unbearable. I wasn’t prepared mentally to have all 3 of my daughters out and about during these dangerous times but here they are putting themselves at risk to do the essential care that they all are so graciously performing.

My daughter Karlee, 23, is an ER nurse and continues to work on the front line in a very busy hospital in the Philadelphia suburbs. She’s only been out of nursing school for a little over a year and now she is caring for both presumptive and confirmed Covid patients. This is in addition to the other sickly, injured and trauma patients that come in on a daily basis. All of this is being done with limited PPEs due to the National Shortage.

My oldest daughter Kyrstin, 24, works as a Labor and Delivery Nurse in the same suburban hospital as her sister Karlee. She continues to deliver babies and support anxious patients who will now have to face additional challenges. The excitement that these soon to be parents were experiencing is now tainted. There will be no visits from excited grandparents, siblings, friends or other relatives because of the strict No Visitors Policy currently in place at the hospital. Once discharged, they will have to go home and remain in the house as everything remains shut down. There will be no visitors or family help during those early and exhausting weeks.

Even my youngest daughter Kourtney, 20, is out of the house working, while her fellow students and friends are respectively staying at home watching Netflix, finishing their classes online and posting on Social Media. She works at an Assisted Living Retirement Home as a Hostess and Dining Server while in college at Arcadia. Because the residents can no longer eat in the dining hall, Kourtney helps schedule and prepare their meals while also delivering them to their rooms. Many of the residents have tried to invite her into their apartments as they are lonely and fearful, but she is forbidden to enter by management for their safety and hers. She is only permitted to speak with them for a few minutes from a distance.

In addition to the stress and worry that I have for my girls, I too am a Nurse who has to go to work every day to care for cancer patients. I work in a small Radiation Oncology center. Many of our patients are elderly and are coming in from Nursing homes and other group living environments. Not only are we supporting these patients from an Oncology standpoint, but we are trying to keep them as safe as possible from us and each other. Contracting this virus could be potentially fatal as many are immunocompromised already with multiple comorbidities. Even our younger patients are extremely fearful. Many were just coming to terms with their cancer diagnosis and now they have these added stressors. They are worried about their own future and also concerned about the health of their families, their jobs and the possibility of getting laid off in a time where they really need their health insurance to cover their treatments.

While home, my husband has been holding down the fort as he is currently working remotely as a Project Manager and is able to maintain his job (for now). The concern with him though is that he is a Type 2 Diabetic which also puts him in the high-risk category. Although he is staying home, his wife and 3 daughters are all working in separate locations and are in contact with so many sickly and potentially contagious individuals on a daily basis. To be honest, the concept of “social distancing” does not and cannot work when your job requires hands-on care. We all do our best with what we have to protect ourselves and protect those around us.

We all have that same dreadful sense that there is a strong possibility at some point, one of us or possibly all of us will come down with this virus. We are worried about each other, our extended family, our friends, patients, coworkers, and their families as well. We are fanatical about following the safety guidelines at home and trying our best to do everything possible to protect others and ourselves at work, but this virus is spreading at such a rapid rate everywhere.

At the end of the day, we do know that it is so important to try to relax and decompress. We cannot dwell on the “what ifs” every second of every day because it will definitely take its toll. We make sure to watch movies, take walks, play games, read books and enjoy listening to music. Our sense of humor goes a long way – it is very much needed and fortunately, we do not lack that at all in my family. We also enjoy social media and reaching out to those that we don’t see on a daily basis, which helps us feel more grounded.

We are all so grateful for those who have to continue to do their jobs under these trying circumstances. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who are staying home and struggling mentally, physically and financially. We are all affected by this in our own ways. We need to stay strong, support one another and be kind to each other. We will get through this one day at a time.

Cathy Albert, RN is a radiation oncology nurse at Penn Medicine and mom to three amazing women.

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