A salute to heroes in the pandemic war

They’re deep in the trenches. Health care workers and medical professionals fighting a war with a common enemy: the coronavirus.

For months, doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, as well as researchers and mental health care professionals, have put their own personal safety on the line to save lives. They’ve sacrificed time with loved ones, nights of sleep and even the right to live in their own homes while caring for COVID-19 patients.

Jmore proudly recognizes the health care heroes among us. Hundreds of members of our community are on the front lines, researching treatments and vaccine possibilities, caring for the critically ill and providing strength to those struggling with this horrific virus.

Here are some of their stories.

Coordinating end-of-life care is challenging under normal circumstances. With new restrictions in place due to the coronavirus, Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care faces unprecedented challenges.

“A big part of coordinating hospice and comfort care is educating the families as they navigate through the difficult time,” says Stacy Steinberg, a hospice care consultant with Seasons. “It’s difficult to not be with someone in person, hold their hand, give them a hug and show our support through physical touch.”

That’s why Steinberg and the rest of the Seasons team are focused on finding creative ways to provide comfort to the families they serve.

“We are trying to make sure we aren’t socially isolating families from their loved ones just because we are social distancing,” she says. “A major part of the hospice philosophy is inclusive family visits with no restrictions in terms of how many people can be with their loved ones. The lack of visitors has been a major adjustment.”

Seasons has provided care for a number of COVID-19 patients, as well as many others during the pandemic. Steinberg and her co-workers use legacy projects to provide families with a sense of their loved ones and create the connection that may be missing during the pandemic.

“We have done a lot of letter-writing with either our patients writing the letters or us writing them on their behalf depending on the condition,” she says. “We have also done a lot of handprints and teddy bears that incorporate an item of the loved one who is ill.”

Steinberg has worked with families facing hospice decisions for more than five years, and currently works with individuals at Sinai, Northwest and the Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital. She says the speed of decline for COVID-19 patients is unlike anything she’s seen before.

“This virus hits quick,” says Steinberg. “You have patients, with underlying conditions that have been managed for a long time, go from walking and talking to unable to do anything for themselves in a matter of days. …

“It’s been heartbreaking to see individuals try to do what’s best for their family member when they can’t see them,” she says. “They are hearing from doctors and nurses, but not being able to see the person for themselves leaves a level of disbelief and makes it hard to start the coping process.”

Steinberg says she and her colleagues strive to provide strength to those in need. “It’s really incredible to see how the medical and health care community is coming together to take care of everybody and make sure the medical, emotional and spiritual distress coming from this situation is addressed,” she says. “I’ve also seen family members with sorted histories come together to support one another, which is empowering.”