Tucson Frontline Workers

Tucson Frontline Workers, essential workers, and first responders share their COVID-19 experiences.

“I am really worried about it the children I protect in my job. I investigate criminal child abuse and neglect. Now that children are no longer in school, the reports we receive have drastically declined. I know children are still being neglected and abused, but the teachers who see them every day are no longer able to look out for them. Children, who rely on school for food and care, are slipping through the cracks. We need our neighbors and community members to step up and look out for these children to ensure their safety moving forward, because I know it is going to take a whole community to rebuild from this. “~ Pamela, social worker
“I am officially deemed a “mission critical employee”, my son decided I am on a mission similar to a James Bond movie. I’m grateful that he sees the value in the care I provide, despite the long hours away from home. I’ve always known that I am integral part of the medical team, now the world is able to understand the role we play in the diagnosis of patients.” – Jen, medical laboratory scientist
“When the panic first started and people began stocking up, I was excited about the major increase in sales our store was having. Sales easily doubled and almost tripled in a very short time. Within a few days, as I watched my shelves get completely emptied of paper, rice, beans and water, my excitement turned to anxiety. I have to get those shelves refilled so that people can eat. Supply and transportation issues that are completely out of my control, made that very difficult. I felt like I was letting my customers down.” – Rick, grocery store manager
“The mask that protects me from this virus is as suffocating as my fear of the virus. I feel isolated even as I am out in the world and doing my normal routine. Those of us who are “essential workers” are weary and afraid. Our emotional labor has increased greatly because people are so tense and scared. We have to act like everything is normal, offering calmness and confidence even as we monitor every single cough and ache for signs of COVID-19.” – Alica, radiology staff
“I get called to transport a possible Covid-19 patient so I have to gown up, goggle up, glove up and mask up to protect myself….and if  I’m hydrated enough I will tolerate the rubber suit in a hot helicopter for up to an hour…but how protected can one actually be and to be in a cramped space the size of my hallway closet?” – Sara, flight nurse
“I don’t like how I feel doing therapy from home. I find it difficult to make connections in the same way I do in my office. I have to sit with this feeling of incompetence and I want this feeling to go away.” -Steve, Child and Family Therapist
“I keep telling myself that I should be grateful to still have a job but at what cost? What happens when I get very sick? I know for a fact that I will not be able to afford the medical bills. I hear that the best way to be safe is to stay indoors but right now I can’t afford that either.” – Coco, Pet Store Retailer
“People give up on these wonderful animals so quickly, and I made it my personal mission to make sure that these animals don’t lose hope.” – Steve, Canine Enrichment Specialist, Humane Society
“As a Hospice Nurse , a big part of my job is to be able to hold a patient’s hand, smile at them, make sure their symptoms are under control and overall be there for them in their last moments, be it months, weeks or minutes. This situation has made that almost non-existent.” – Kimberlee
“When was the last time you saw a child who was homeless? Never? Chances are, you have seen at least one during your pre-pandemic routine. After all, it’s unpleasant, even difficult, to think that there are children in our own community who do not have a safe home to go to each night. With schools and libraries closed, and classes being held online, the few hours a day that they could pretend life was normal have been taken away from them as well.” – Cindy, group house manager
“It is not easy these days to own and run a home for assisted living. I just buried my youngest son in November, I have no desire to bury anyone else so I take this seriously. I am now living here at the home to make sure I am providing the ultimate best and safe care I can for my residents.” – Anthony
“I am trying to be strong, while watching my families cry. I cannot hug them, nor can I stand too close. My clients have to settle for an “air hug”. I never thought I would have to attend a virtual funeral and be left to my own devices for comfort and solace.” -LaTonya, elder placement service provider
“To hear this is helping families gives us a purpose. Parents mention it’s hard to feed a typical lunch or breakfast to her family because of the limits on items in the stores. Many tell us it’s the highlight of their kids day. The breakfast and lunches served throughout our district is close to 29,500 weekly.” – Colleen, Lunch Lady
“You may look at these inmates and see a criminal, but as a nurse, it is my job to look at them and see a human being. Despite whatever mistakes they have made, they are all someone’s son or daughter. Most are also someone’s mom or dad. They have families out there who are scared because they haven’t been able to see their loved ones in over a month, with no promise of when they will be able to again.” – Danielle, registered nurse in a prison
“After receiving the test results, I had many restless nights because I feared for my family’s and my health and safety. To know that I brought this virus into my home and possibly infected my family made me feel angry and helpless. Eventually, my wife and daughter started showing some symptoms of COVID-19 while I remained mostly asymptomatic. I felt fine physically but was struggling emotionally.” – Jeff, utility maintenance worker
“On a recent day in the ER, I had a patient who, because of her underlying conditions, is unlikely to survive Covid-19. We’re supposed to limit our exposure to Covid-positive patients, but in this case, like so many others, it felt incredibly important to go ahead and spend extensive time talking with this patient, helping her have the end-of-life discussions with her family over the phone that were suddenly of utmost importance.” – Monica, emergency room nurse
“Through all this work, I am continually humbled by the folks in our community who are stepping up in ways that will not be recognized because of the nature of public health; because as people in our work say, you know public health is working best when you don’t hear about it.” -Brian, public health worker
“The big questions that came into my mind were: How can I provide access to learning to students who do not have technology in their homes? What are the most fundamental concepts I should be focusing on with such limited student contact time? How will I maintain a sense of community with my class? The answers are, it has been and continues to be a challenge.” – Laurie, 1st grade teacher
“Families are rarely happy to see us-at least not at first. We must speak to families during what is likely the very worst day of their entire lives and talk about their wife, or husband, or child becoming an organ donor and saving lives through the gift of organ donation. It is not always well received. Now not only do we need to speak to them about donation, we frequently have to do it over the phone as we are strictly limiting our presence in the hospital unless there is an active donor or brain death testing taking place.” – Angelique, organ donation nurse
“Emergency medical and critical-care team members are canaries in the coal mine. When we are understaffed and overworked, when there is no staff to triage patients, when more and more patients are piling up at the emergency department door, the system breaks down, then people break down. You can borrow ventilators (until you can’t) and make more personal protective equipment (we hope). You cannot magically produce more nurses, respiratory therapists, physicians or other professionals.” – Dr. Brad Dreifuss
I try to foster a human connection during office visits but it feels more difficult since COVID. Care often occurs through a telemedicine platform. In-person exams are completed from behind a mask. No shaking hands, no comforting touch of a shoulder, no hugs. It feels colder, more impersonal.
“There are many reasons why students can’t attend including lack of technology, working parents who can’t help them access technology, child care issues, or many people in one household having to share the same device. It is extremely difficult for schools to pivot on a dime from dynamic, collaborative, hands-on learning experiences to very static learning experienced through a screen—especially for young students like mine.” – Wes, 4thgrade teacher
“What worries me most are my clients who are socially vulnerable, living in unsafe situations, or in homes full of violence and addiction. The same social injustices that existed before COVID- are only magnified by this disease. Egregious health disparities plaguing our women and children are only getting worse during the pandemic.” – Diana, midwife
“COVID-19 is a stressor on a broken system. It has no intentions of its own, but as it replicates it shows us our weaknesses, our fault lines. It shows us where our inhumanities lie.My job is to listen, to support the autonomy, dignity and safety of pregnant and birthing people, and to welcome new beings into the world. In my heart, I hope that the light that COVID-19 shines on our broken systems will inspire us to transform them. But I’m also deeply afraid, for my children and everyone else’s, that we won’t.” -Amanda, midwife
“I’m more confident than ever that we will be able to science our way out of this mess and into happier tomorrows. However, I am asking for your help by wearing your masks, practicing safe social distancing, washing your hands constantly, and keeping our families safe by doing so. We mustn’t rely solely on the frontline workers and science to combat this and prevail. Everyone has a stake in this. Again, we need your help, I need your help.“ – Dr. Matt Heinz
“Before Covid, I brought the dogs every day and our “neighbors” would meet us in the foyer or beckon us to come visit their rooms, giving them treats and telling stories…They didn’t understand the forced isolation to their rooms which they told me feels like being imprisoned. Many of my neighbors are gone now. With minimal human interaction, or affection, or purpose–they succumbed.” – Rebecca, nursing home speech pathologist

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