September 16, 2020

NAMI is partnering with #FirstRespondersFirst to raise awareness about the importance of mental health in frontline health care and public safety professionals. In today's blog, nurses Angelica Marmol and Natalie Perez share how their friendship is helping them stay resilient through their work together on a COVID unit.

Our frontline health workers are the first responders in the fight against the coronavirus. These health professionals will also be our guides and community allies on the road to our full recovery as a healthy nation. Thrive Global is sharing their inspiring stories.

We have been best friends since nursing school, and happen to also work together on the same unit! At the start of this pandemic, we were definitely ones who did not believe the severity of it all. Confronting the virus, we quickly learned it was more horrific than we could have imagined. As nurses we’ve had to go through a lot of changes in regards to how we care for patients.

Some of the hardest parts about COVID-19 is watching patients fight for their lives knowing all available treatments have already been explored. Along with our patients, we are all just waiting for a miracle in some cases.

Within the first week of treating COVID patients, we realized how much it was taking a toll on our mental health, our stress level was at its peak. Not only were we physically exhausted and getting home with back aches and swollen feet, we were also taking our work home every day.

Before COVID, there were only a few times where we couldn’t avoid taking work home with us, but during these times it became an everyday thing. It was hard to fully relax and be able to fall asleep to prepare for work the following day. We get to work and watch patients our age struggle with the virus — knowing their only chance of survival is for a machine to to assist their respirations. We continue to pull through and show up to work, even though there is a chance the roles could be reversed one day and we will be the ones struggling to breath.

We walk into work in the morning and tell ourselves we are going to give our patients the best care we can provide, and that’s what we do.. Some of them won’t make it — and some will, but for those that don’t, we have to constantly remind each other that we did the best we could. It was something we struggled with in the beginning of this pandemic — and still do.

As nurses, we come across death, but never to this magnitude. The things we have seen will have a lasting effect on us. Not only are patients fighting for their lives, but they are also doing it without their family and friends beside them. We quickly had to adapt to not only being our patient’s nurses, and advocating for them, but also be their family and friends at their bedside. We are the person they speak to and see the most throughout the day. We care for them and keep them company throughout their toughest moments.

Somedays, it was hard to find a balance. There were days that we would break down in our patients’ rooms because we were overwhelmed, not only with the physical stress of the job, but emotionally. It is not in our nature to leave scared patients alone behind closed doors. There are many days we choose to overexpose ourselves for the safety and comfort of our patients.

We are mentally exhausted more than anything. But seeing the support from the community, random little signs thanking a healthcare worker walking to work and even businesses sending us food, gave us the strength to get up, get to work and give it our best.

Along with the support from our community, one of the things that has kept us going is working together. Walking into work and knowing that not only do you have support on the outside from your family, friends, and community, but you are walking side by side into this COVID war with your best friend! Even when some days we were too busy throughout our shift to even sit down together, just knowing that your best friend is fighting along with you went a long way.

During this pandemic, we also started a YouTube Channel together named Ang & Nat–Nurses in NYC, in order to be creative and place our energy in something fun and positive for us both. We never knew how much this would help us keep our mind away from work. We made a few videos regarding our journey during the pandemic and how it’s affecting us, but we also make fun little videos to help nursing students through this tough time!

We relied on YouTube during our nursing career and wanted to give back. This is one of the biggest things that has helped us decompress, while also remaining self-quarantined from our family and friends. As COVID-19 begins to settle, we continue to pray for our fellow healthcare workers that are struggling with the lasting effects of everything we have witnessed. Many of us have had to go to work while our families were fighting the virus in another hospital, we’ve watched our coworkers die and others have returned to work after fighting off the virus.

The need for mental health support is at an all-time high during these difficult times. We have the faith that we will pull through as a nation and as nurses, we will continue to show up for the fight and most importantly, for our patients.

Click here for information about how Thrive Global is supporting our healthcare workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, and find out how you can support the cause by donating to #FirstRespondersFirst.

If you’re a first responder and want to share your story, email us at [email protected]. Please note, a Thrive editor may contact you to hear more about your story, and your submission may be edited for length or clarity before publication. By submitting your story, video, or pictures, you are agreeing for Thrive to publish your submission(s) if selected, and agreeing to the Thrive Global Privacy Policy. You can find more guidelines here.

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