Health care workers do not stop for the holidays, especially those who have been caring for coronavirus patients now for more than nine months straight.
Recently, two registered nurses at Huntsville Hospital who have been on the front lines since day one, opened up candidly to WAAY 31 about their challenges and fears while handling coronavirus patients along with their hopes for the future.
"When April came around we were like deer in the headlights," described Tia Marie Stevenson, a registered nurse at Huntsville Hospital.
"Chaos, just pure chaos," added Elise Foster, also a registered nurse and charge nurse at Huntsville Hospital.
Foster detailed the early days when Covid-19 patients began to arrive at the hospital. In her words, the initial days were hectic, to put it mildly.
"It was fear because nobody knew what this was. You were getting email after email policy was changing," recalled Foster.
Foster knew then and there, they were about to be in a medical fight of a lifetime.
"We don't close units down for the flu. We don't cancel elective surgeries for the flu," said Foster. "This disease is extremely real and honestly is scary. What it does to a person we still don't know everything about it."
For both Foster and Stevenson, the early days were not only challenging professionally, but also personally. Long hours, uncertainty and coping with dying patients created a physical and mental burden for life at home, too.
"There were several of us that did send our families away. I sent mine to my parents down in South Alabama for a good 4 to 5 weeks in April. And it was hard," said Foster. "I've gone home many mornings crying and I know a lot of my coworkers have, but we do lean on each other."
"A lot of times our families don't really understand . Yeah, we could talk to them about it, but they don't understand because they're not here." added Stevenson. "This is very emotional and sometimes you just wanna hug that's it."
Stevenson noted that the hospital staff as a whole eventually learned to be flexible and many times make immediate changes as medical guidelines changed at a moment's notice.
"It's kind of forced us to you know work on how we adjust to every situation because unpredictable happens every day." said Stevenson.
Both nurses also opened up about losing patients due to Covid-19. They describe much the same as losing a close friend.
"I have had more nurses in rooms holding hands of people that are dying that I've ever seen," said Foster.
"You want to be there with a loved one to hold her hand, but I want people to understand that's what we're doing and that's not going to make up for the fact that you're not there with mom or dad or your brother or a sister, but we are trying our hardest."
Then, there are the good days - the days when coronavirus patients are released. Patients in recovery are music to the hearts of these nurses.
"You get attached to them - a lot of them especially the ones who have been here for a while," said Stevenson. "Yeah, it's like family."
It takes very special people to put in grueling hours with very few breaks during a pandemic in a battle against a mysterious disease, but these two nurses hold their heads up as they continue the fight on the frontlines. A battle that does not appear to be ending anytime soon,
They take the time to lift each other up and give credit to those serving right their with them.
"I cannot even describe what all these nurses have done," Foster proudly exclaimed. "They have impressed me more than anybody."
Now with new vaccines to help in the fight, these nurses have become cautionsly optimistic about the days ahead.
"There's a light at the end of this," said Stevenson. "If we all work together, wear our masks and do what we're supposed to be doing, we'll get through this."