Heroes Without Capes: Medical workers on the COVID-19 frontlines

NEW YORK — “I stepped up to volunteer, simply because it’s my job. I’ve been an ICU and ER nurse for more than 20 years.”

This is what superheroes look like today — without the regular tights and capes.

Their outfit of choice: N95 face masks and other personal protective equipment, or PPEs.

Their enemy — the tiniest, most wanted villain on the planet: the novel coronavirus.

“Every day people go to work, risking their own lives for other, why should I seek an exemption, di ba?” said Lorena Vivas.

But the truth is, Vivas could have asked for exemption.

Thoracic scars is a reminder that about four months ago, she battled cancer and almost lost her life.

“I was diagnosed with malignant thymoma, sometime November, by the second week, I went through a procedure called sternotomy, you can still see the scar, binuksan ang chest. They had to take out the malignant tumor.”

Earlier this year — the cancer survivor chose to go back to work as a nurse, risking her life to save others amid the coronavirus pandemic, as a frontliner at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, with hundreds of other “superheroes” in scrubs and N95 masks working together to defeat COVID-19.

“I feel good that I stepped outside my own concerns because of other people… I think that’s what makes us good citizens.”

But even superheroes have their kryptonite – and for these nurses, without their face masks, scrubs and gloves – they stand no chance to defeat COVID-19.

“If we get sick, it’s not very easy to replace us. There are thousands of us in the nation and we need more PPE’s… unfortunately, this government ignored all the warnings and we are all caught unprepared, its too late to blame each other but we can recover by manufacturing more PPEs, ventilators.”

For Vivas, the best way to defeat coronavirus is for everyone to do their part by staying home, clean and healthy — and avoid becoming one of their patients.

Vivas said the pandemic has caused so much trauma to the frontliners.

“We have never wrapped so many bodies, in fact, I have seen more dead bodies in two days than in all my twenty years as a nurse. What is most heartbreaking is that these patients do not have their families with them.”

And yet they keep going — like the true superheroes that they are — saving lives one day at a time.

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