I have never prayed so hard in my life. When the outbreak began in China I was glued to the news. The more I learned about the novel coronavirus, the more I fell to my knees. I prayed that the researchers and experts would quickly discover everything they possibly could about the virus. I prayed they would pinpoint how the virus was transmitted, find a cure, and invent a vaccine. I prayed that the virus would be contained and that the ever rising death toll would miraculously freeze. I prayed for the health and safety of my family and friends in the Philippines because they were so close to where it all began. My heart went out to those affected but life in New York continued as normal.
But everything changed when the virus started hopping onto cruise ships and airplanes as a silent stowaway that remained under our radars until it was too late.
The next thing we knew, New York City became the COVID-19 epicenter of the United States. To make matters worse, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in my county was from my town. It was absolutely confounding like it often is when something unspeakable hits so close to home.
COVID-19 was no longer viewed through the safety of my television screen as a virus wreaking havoc in a country half way across the world. It was a very real intruder banging at my doorstep, threatening to enter my home, and disrupt life as I knew it.
And it did. It did not just for me but for the whole world.
As a young Registered Nurse, this pandemic was the first major health crisis I have had to serve through. Trust me when I say there was nothing more terrifying.
I became my supervisor’s right hand nurse in all things COVID-19. I spent hours every day in a perpetual game of telephone tag with the Department of Health receiving guidance and assisting in contact tracing efforts. It actually came to a point where they recognized my voice and telephone number. I unintentionally skipped lunch every day and clocked in more overtime hours in the week before our community quarantine than I thought imaginable.
And that wasn’t the only thing that blew my mind. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York continued to increased exponentially every day. In a span of three weeks, we went from having a single case to over 10,000! It was unbelievable!
Then New York finally went on lockdown.
They say that NYC, the city that never sleeps, fell into a deep slumber. It finally took a long overdue nap. I never thought I would live to see the day that the streets of New York would be empty. The ever crowded Times Square was deserted. With the state officially on “PAUSE” and a strict stay-at-home order in place, it began to feel like I lived in a ghost town.
I would be lying if I said the pandemic didn’t affect my mind and body but God has and continues to sustain me. The physical and psychological stress was overwhelming. Practicing self-care was more important than ever. I would reserve my cathartic cries for my steamy showers where I would wash away the filth and stress of the day. I would lay awake to 3 AM nearly every night. I struggled to fall asleep and would do so counting ambulance sirens passing by instead of sheep. It just goes to show how many emergencies New Yorkers had on the daily. At that rate, it wasn’t surprising that our hospitals were surged and that the number of critical cases hospitalized were through the roof.
But thank God that things began to turn around for New York. It took time but New York has slowly and cautiously reopened. Every day to this point has required so much sacrifice and continues to demand such. In this era of COVID-19 we are faced with adjusting to life in a new normal and when I look back at the past six months, there is no doubt in my mind that God had planted me exactly where I needed to be during this pandemic.
Being a frontliner is something I will never forget. But being on the frontlines wasn’t the end all be all in fighting against this invisible enemy. I’ve always believed that anyone can contribute to the greater good wherever they are and in whatever they do. This was no exception. I was so passionate about the idea of everyone playing pivotal roles in the battle against COVID-19 that I even wrote a blog about it!
At the peak of the pandemic I wrote:
“Battles are not won purely because of those on the front lines. Just like in any war, it takes the entire army with every single person mobilized, doing their tasks to the best of their ability at all times, and being prepared and willing to step up when called to do so.
People working behind the scenes and from the side lines play roles whose impacts are far greater than what meets the eye. Remember, just because the spotlight is on someone else doesn’t excuse you from performing as expected.
Not everyone will be a frontliner in this war against COVID-19 but I believe that everyone can help contribute to humanity’s victory.”
My belief hasn’t changed since then. In fact, it’s only been strengthened.
In the past six months, I have witnessed both the beautiful and hideous sides of humanity. COVID-19 has revealed so much. But I am convinced that the good will always triumph over the bad. I am continuously inspired by the wonderful acts of kindness, selfless service, and encouraging displays of community I see from people around me and from all over the world. Seeing people do even the simplest of things such as wearing a mask, remaining socially distanced, and just following the rules and health guidelines brings me joy because I know all the sacrifices we frontliners and essential workers have made were not made in vain.
The battle is far from over but we can and will get through this together.
Ellaine Laureta is a Registered Nurse serving on the frontlines in New York and leaves you with a friendly reminder to wash your hands often, wear a mask over your nose and mouth, cover your coughs and sneezes, stay at least six feet apart from others, monitor your health daily, clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, and stay home when you’re sick.
Read full issue here for FREE.
Stories and images in the time of COVID-19
An anthology of the struggles and hopes of Filipinos during the global health crisis of our time.
Banner art by Allen Esteban