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.

Rebecca and Justin Rubin are pulling double-duty, both working full time as nurses and parents to their three young daughters who aren’t in school due to COVID-19.

The couple rotate day and night shifts. Justin cares for the couple’s children while Rebecca works as a labor and delivery nurse at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, and Rebecca is on parenting duty when Justin heads to Sinai Hospital for his 12-hour ICU shift.

“I feel like I’m fighting a war every shift,” he says.

For Justin, caring for critically ill patients is part of his daily job description, but working on the front lines of the coronavirus is different.

“With COVID-19, the intensity is amplified times a thousand,” he says. “Every person in the ICU is considered a person under investigation. Doctors have never seen anything like this before, and we are all learning new things every day.”

Prior to the pandemic, Sinai’s ICU had four negative pressure rooms. The hospital has since converted all 29 units to negative pressure rooms. Also, patients must test negative for the virus twice to be classified virus-free.

“We have patients who tested negative but still exhibit COVID-19 symptoms,” says Justin. “We gear up with N95s, face shields and gowns for every patient, regardless of the test results. It’s hot and exhausting but needs be done. If one of us got the virus, it would be tough to find someone to replace us. In this situation, we have to look out for ourselves first, which is counterintuitive to what medicine is.”

While confident in his training and protective gear, Justin admits to experiencing occasional feelings of uneasiness.

“There is nothing wrong with a little anxiety because it keeps you focused,” he says. “As a nurse I have to be available, no matter what the situation is. We are essential personnel. I am nervous, but not paralyzed with fear.”

A nurse practitioner, Rebecca cares for women at GBMC who are about to become mothers.

A nurse practitioner, Rebecca Rubin cares for women at GBMC who are about to become mothers.
A nurse practitioner, Rebecca Rubin cares for women at GBMC who are about to become mothers.

“Delivering babies isn’t different as a result of COVID-19, but the lack of visitors and support for the patient has drastically changed,” she says. “Patients usually come to the hospital with not only their partners but their mothers, other immediate family or best friends. Because of COVID-19, patients can only have one support person.”

GBMC’s labor and delivery floor houses two regular negative pressure rooms and one negative pressure operating room. All health care providers on the floor are taking necessary safety precautions by wearing masks, shields and special scrubs.

“There is nothing to prepare you for a pandemic, but our job is to help others no matter what,” says Rebecca. “I’m used to having to go to work regardless of the situation. We can’t just tap out.”

As the country slowly reopens, Rebecca and Justin hope people continue to take social distancing seriously. “Ending social distancing will only make our situation last longer,” Justin says. “I recognize the financial strain this is having on individuals, but loans are being forgiven and money can come back. You can’t bring back a life.”