Some of the most stunning and inspiring stories during the COVID-19 pandemic have come from the healthcare workers on the frontline fighting to take care of patients, fighting for the gear they need to stay safe while they take care of patients, and conveying to all of us the need to stay home so we don’t become one of their patients. Many of those stories have been told by nurses, specifically emergency room nurses. I have to choke back tears every time I see an emergency room nurse tell their story or plead for protective equipment.
You see, when I was in elementary school my mom went back to school to get her nursing degree. It was one of the most tenacious things I’ve ever seen. To this day I’m not sure how she went to school full-time with two small children interrupting her studies every ten minutes or so while still managing to graduate at the top of her class. Even more incredibly, she never missed anything: Not a dance recital, a parent-teacher conference or a Little League game went by without my mom in attendance — even after she took a job in the local emergency room.
One thing I think people overlook about working in an environment like an emergency room is that schedules are more of a suggestion than a reality. There is no such thing as clocking out of a shift if a car accident happens 30 minutes before the shift was supposed to end. As I read about nurses describing never-ending flows of COVID-19 patients into their ERs and ICUs I thought of the many nights my mom came home hours after we expected her, exhausted from a long day of taking care of people who may be experiencing one of their worst moments.
I have lost count of the number of times people have thanked me for the work my mother did for them or their family. Friends, acquaintances, and neighbors have all pulled me aside to let me know that my mom made a huge difference at a moment they needed it. My mom’s reaction has always been the same: a smile of gratitude, with a quick reminder that she was just doing her job. A job that she did better than just about anyone for 26 years.
My mother retired two years ago after complications from a back surgery, but I cannot watch the news without thinking about her time as a nurse, or her coworkers and friends who are still working in the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. She still fields calls from practically every member of our extended family on any and all medical questions because she’s a virtual encyclopedia of health care information.
I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about my dad. After all, this is a baseball blog and my dad was the parent who taught me how to hit and throw. My dad was the one who played pepper with us on the Little League fields. My dad was the one who answered my endless questions about the rules and strategy of the game when we watched baseball together.
But my dad would be the first to tell you that my mom makes it all possible. My mom is the one who taught me how to keep score during my brother’s Little League games. My mom is the one who tended to every scraped knee that sent me or my brother inside in tears. My mom is the one who asked the local newspaper editor if I could write some stories covering my brother’s baseball teams since our small town paper didn’t have enough staff for it. My mom is the one who adopted the Cubs as her team in 2016 because she knew how important they were to me.
Today is my mom’s birthday and if you turn on the news you will hear countless stories of the heroes staffing our hospitals. It shouldn’t take a pandemic for us to appreciate the work nurses do everyday. They were heroes before the pandemic and they will be heroes when it’s over. I am fortunate and grateful to have one of those heroines as my mom.