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Every day is ‘Giving Thanks to Essential Workers Day’

Jennifer McGouirk, a family nurse practitioner at Adirondack Health, is currently working in the Adirondack Health COVID-19 clinic. (Provided photo — Adirondack Health)

Right off the bat, I need to stress how much I am not equipped to be a healthcare professional. So, it is good news for all of you that I am not one. I know my own strengths and I know my weaknesses. My tolerance for illness and pain used to be pretty low. Sometimes we have to rise to circumstances beyond our control, but that is not a reason to choose a career. My children have been pretty lucky with good health and perhaps deep down they knew that I wasn’t going to be much help to them. The flip side is that they are both resilient. That is the goal, right? We want our children to be better than ourselves. I’ll save the rest of my parenting flaws for my Zoom book/wine club.

A few weeks ago, I was sent a picture from a healthcare worker friend in full protective gear. It sent chills down my spine. This is not an apocalyptic war movie. No director is yelling cut and she is not an extra. Beyond what she and her co-workers have to experience, adapt, and relearn in order to do their jobs, they have to deal with sweating and overheating while wrapped in their protective gear. This isn’t the normal job pressure of protecting and saving lives. This is saving lives encased in a scuba suit and working like they’re performing tests while underwater. Still, they get the job done with grace.

I have always tried to put myself in someone else’s shoes, to see the other person’s perspective. One thing I’ve learned is sometimes the shoes are just too big to fill. I think about people working in essential businesses. They leave their own families, put themselves at risk while putting our families first. They don’t know us, not all of us. I wish I was so selfless. I bought food and hunkered down and made sure my family was safe before thinking of anyone else’s. The big concern at my house, besides handwashing, has been to remember where I’ve hidden food so my children don’t eat two weeks of groceries in two days.

My best friend is a trained emergency room physician who worked for years in an inner-city hospital. She is now on-call to leave her private practice to help with this healthcare crisis. She spoke about how a good portion of her job is figuring out how to deal with people at their very worse. Isn’t that what all these essential workers do every day without a pandemic breathing down their necks? We visit healthcare professionals when we feel horrible. We just want someone to make us feel better and we’re not always pleasant trying to get it to happen. It’s the same for every server, shop owner, police officer and person I’ve forgotten to mention. People just assume that they will receive the flawless service they paid for but forgetting there is a person behind each plate, every register, and every phone call. Now we visit them with the added fear of an invisible virus. Still, they serve.

The healthcare worker I mentioned earlier and I finished our text exchange. I had reached out to make sure she was okay, but she spent the time reassuring me. That is instinctual for her, to make sure other people are well. She joked about losing weight in all her gear while I mentioned how I was just sitting home eating my feelings … and brownies, which are essentially the same thing. That is why we are in good hands. We are living in a world surrounded by people willing to put others before themselves. That is why I’ll stay home and out of the way.

FYI: I asked Adirondack Health for a photo of an essential worker that I could use to highlight the extreme measures hospitals have to go through to protect themselves and the public. I do not know Jennifer, though I admire what she is doing. Jennifer, my friends, and all other essential workers are all wearing shoes just too big to fill. Thankfully we don’t have to.

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