Photo Credit: Yossi Aloni/Flash90

All those in the medical field put themselves at risk every single day. Even before the novel coronavirus, on any given day we never knew what we were walking into. As a pediatric intensive care nurse for seven years, I have been in my fair share of dangerous situations. I’ve been exposed to viruses and bacteria without knowing. I’ve cared for a child beaten to death by his father, while the father was not in custody. I have cared for teenagers involved in gangs and shootings, with police standing outside the door in case gang members show up. We swipe our IDs and confront whatever danger awaits us without hesitation. As Covid-19 spreads across our country, our job and our commitment to helping the sick never wavers.

On March 29 I showed up to my pediatric intensive care unit to be told that in 48 hours we would be transitioned to an adult Covid-19 ICU. We would have two to three days to train and learn and on April 1 we would open as a fully functioning adult medical ICU. As a nurse for seven-plus years, I had only ever cared for the pediatric population.

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This does not make me a hero. This does not make my co-workers, doctors, PA’s, respiratory therapists or any ancillary staff heroes. What makes us heroes are the sacrifices we are forced to make because now we are exposing ourselves to Covid-19 every single day. This is what makes us heroes; the nurse who sends away her husband and two small children to minimize their risk, not knowing how long it will be until she can hold or even see her children again. What makes us heroes are the days we finally have a break from the hospital and must spend them alone. What makes us heroes is that all of us can no longer be with our our family, indefinitely.

What makes me a hero is being a single Orthodox woman who now has to spend Pesach and Shabbos alone. And it’s ok. I don’t share this for pity, I share this so that each and every one of you understands the sacrifices that every medical professional has been forced to make.

When we chose this field, we chose to help others before we help ourselves. We never knew we would be forced to choose between our patients and our families. But now we are, and every single one of us has chosen you. We choose you and your loved ones over our own. We choose to keep fighting this nasty, scary virus even though it means we can’t be with any of our loved ones for a long time.

This is more than a plea to just stay at home, it’s a plea to understand, really truly understand, that while you’re all stuck at home with your families or friends, we are working 12-hour shifts running straight into the fire. You spend your days avoiding the virus and doing everything in your power to protect yourself from it. We are literally surrounding ourselves with this disease day after day. We are putting ourselves at risk every day to try and eradicate this deadly virus. But aside from our own personal health, we have each sacrificed more than you can ever know.

I’m lucky to work in a profession where I can help so many people. I’m lucky to work in a profession where I can do my part to help during this crazy situation we have all been thrown into. We medical professionals are heroes, not because we show up to work and help those who are sick, but because without hesitation we have given up everything around us. I hope and pray this pandemic will end soon so no more people have to suffer and die. So my friends can be reunited with their families. And so I can finally go and hug my nieces and nephews and talk to my family from less than six feet away.

Stay home, please. Please. Stay home so I can go home. So we all can go home to our families and not have to choose our patients over our families anymore.

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Naomi Kramer is an RN in a Weill Cornell Medical Center PICU-turned-MICU.