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KERRY GARUFI

Health Care Professional

My name is Kerry. I have been an ICU nurse for eight years. I have worked in multiple specialty ICU's throughout New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. When it comes to the current crisis of COVID-19 no experience or training could have ever been enough. I am used to critically ill patients but, those affected by COVID-19 deserve an entirely independent acuity level. As a young nurse, independent of the constraints of a husband and children I feel responsible not only for taking care of my patients but, also my coworkers who have families and don't have the luxury of going home to an empty house. I feel a weight of responsibility that I've never felt before. Not only am I responsible for treating a patient with a virus that is completely foreign to us, I am responsible for maintaining my own safety. Each and every step that you take before you enter a patient's room requires critical thinking so that you keep yourself safe from harm. It feels awful to think of the patients as harmful. I am the patients ears and eyes as they unable to have visits from their family and friends. I am the last person to connect a loved one with their family member before they pass away. I am the last person that a patient sees before they die. That in itself, is as heartbreaking as this awful virus that has changed all of our lives forever. After multiple exposures in the ICU I tested Covid positive. I have been home infected and very sick for 19 days. But, I will get over this and I will continue to do my job. I will continue to follow my passion for people. I will continue to support my patients my coworkers and battling this global pandemic.

BROWNWYN, S

Health Care Professional

Being a nurse in Manhattan, the epicenter of the worlds pandemic COVID-19 has given us as healthcare workers challenges we never thought we would face. Our lives have been forever changed, our role in the hospital and at the bedside has forever changed. Our fear is daily while we ask ourselves "are we wearing the right equipment? Did we wash our hands enough? Did we do everything we could to save that patients life?" The answer is "I hope so." The daily struggle of new guidelines for wearing PPE, last minute assignment changes, waking up in the morning and not knowing what we may or may not be doing has caused stress that one can only imagine. The patients are scared and we don't have answers, the families fight with us everyday as they are not allowed to accompany their loved ones, we just do our best and rely on our city to do their best to help us. We at Memorial Sloan Kettering have become more united than ever. Whether we are screening patients at the door, swabbing patients and/or employees for the virus, accepting transfers from other hospitals to lighten the load, being redeployed to other units, we know we are all in this together and I am happy to be a part of that. I am happy I know I am helping to "flatten the curve."

YEHIA EL NAHHAS

Senior Citizen - Alzheimers

In 2012 I was diagnosed with "Alzheimers", a type of dementia which causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. When doctors first told me about my illness, I thought my world would never be the same. I thought that my lifelong connections to my family and friends would be completely severed due to my inability to remember important information. I thought that I would never experience joy in the same way, and I found myself doubting everything I had built in my life. I questioned my entire identity, and was wrapped in emotions such as rage, rage at the world for giving me this illness and rage as to, what I saw, my life getting snatched from right underneath me. However, my family reassured me that they would never think any differently of me, as I was such a vital part of their life, and that, if anything, this illness was a gift. They said my illness made them realize how important each second spent as a family mattered, and that they would cherish and love me more than ever. They made me feel enveloped in a warm blanket of love and security- and soon I saw my illness through the lense of gratitude- gratitude about being able to spend more quality time with them and gratitude that I belonged to such a large and loving family. Now, I see my illness as a blessing rather than a curse, one that let me truly realize how much of a gift life is and one which allowed me to spend more time than ever with a family I so deeply love and care for.

 VICTORIA GRISANTI

Coronavirus Survivor

One day my dad came in and told us my mother was sick. We didn't know with what. Her illness had started a few days before with a headache and a sore throat. I sat there, with my own headache and sore throat, and was silent. After a week of worrying, we left New York. My mom seemed to be stabilizing. My worries dissipated for a moment until she was quickly taken to the hospital only two days after we watched Finding Nemo together (a movie which quite, unfortunately, begins with the death of Nemo's mom. Not our best idea.) Once she was admitted, we were not allowed to see her until she got better- or didn't. This was when I got sicker. In some ways, worrying about my own health and whether or not I was going to be hospitalized was a welcome distraction from worrying about my mom. Meanwhile, her fever reached 105 and she had pneumonia in both lungs. There was an unmentionable fear amongst us that we would get bad news. I honestly don't think I was actually alive during those days. I think I merely existed, floating between sickness and health, not feeling anything because how was I supposed to handle those feelings? Then finally, in a hallelujah moment her fever broke. I started to get better too, and we were hauled off to get tested at the nearest COVID center an hour away, where my mom was kept locked up with other "COVIDs" as they were called. The day we got tested, my mother came home. My entire family breathed a sigh of relief. My mother continues to get stronger every day.

MOLLY HOUGH

Healthcare Professional

COVID-19 has over run Chicago. Although our government officials, hospital administrators, and special task forces had a bit of a head start to attempt to plan for the surge of patients expected, nothing could truly prepare staff for the lack of resources, especially in the form of ICU nurses, that would make our daily patient assignments hardly manageable. As an ICU nurse, I usually look forward to going to work and helping my patients. In this COVID-19 surge mode, I dread it-not only because I worry about not being able to adequately care for the sickest infected patients, but also because I am afraid that if I am unknowingly infected myself, I will spread it to my coworkers. It is a very hard time right now. It feels nice to be appreciated in the public for the work that we as nurses are doing. But sometimes I also feel severely guilty because I wish we could do more to help these very sick patients. 

ANONYMOUS

Struggling with an Eating Disorder

For the last couple years, I've struggled immensely with all aspects of eating and body image. Since I was little, I have been taught to be body and health conscious, and to workout constantly. This "life lesson" turned into an obsession further fueled by negative body image and perpetual "teen-angst". I began working out constantly and restricting my calories to dangerously low levels. After many arguments with my parents about my eating, I realized that I hated the way I looked even more than I had before. My self esteem had plummeted to the ground and I promised myself I would get better. After gaining weight, I took a different approach at controlling both my weight and emotions: bulimia. After a little over two years, I have decided to take action and control back into my life. I want to get better for both my physical and mental wellbeing. I know how hard it is to cope with anxiety and stress without an outlet, and I know this journey will be hard. The reality of an eating disorder is very different than how the media portrays it. There is no glamor nor glitz. It truly takes the life out of you. I wanted to share my story to raise eating disorder awareness without glorifying eating disorders.

ANONYMOUS

Dealing with Depression

Depression doesn't always present itself how people think. I smiled everyday, made jokes, and always was there for people with a shoulder to cry on. Every night when I went to sleep I would break down into tears, criticizing everything about myself. I wasn't able to look in the mirror without having tears come to my eyes. This was a long time ago. It has taken time and effort to be able to say I have recovered. With the help of opening up to loved ones as well as getting professional help I was able to begin to rebuild my self worth.

ANONYMOUS

Struggling with an Anxiety Disorder

For the past few years I have struggled with mental illness. It began in middle school as a small amount of anxiety but grew into something that effected every aspect of my life. Around 2 years ago images of my body were exploited without my consent. This was the cause of many nights of crying, and eventually lead self harm. No one in my family knew what was going on, and to this day they still don't. My sister could see something was up and I began to see a therapist. Soon after I was put in medication for my anxiety. Over the past year I have worked hard to suppress the urges I may have for self harm in order to grow as a young adult. I thought I would never be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel but now I can see I'm almost there.

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Please share your personal experience dealing with any health hardships. Everyone's stories are welcome. It is so important to raise awareness so that we can learn, grow, and support one another. This is a safe space and we encourage positivity. Feel free to remain anonymous.