Modern Day Heroes in Uncertain Times
There is no shame in being afraid. Covid-19 caused a shock to the world and the country in 2020. It caused sickness and death across the world and left others scared of the unknowns and uncertainties. Many people developed anxiety, depression, getting stuck inside, or fear of getting sick or losing a loved one. Whatever your fear, there are the modern-day heroes that have taken control and have helped the world by saving lives and putting people at ease. Nurses, teachers, social workers, and so many more all had significant positive impacts on the pandemic and those affected the most.
The new normal for Jessica Sanders, a math teacher at Blue Springs high school, is nothing like she expected. “Because we aren’t allowed to have shared materials, that has required me to reformat my teaching methods to allow for a completely digital format. I no longer collect and grade papers. I grade electronic copies of worksheets and create Microsoft forms. I utilize the online textbook more than I ever did before and I teach students to use their notes effectively because they are allowed to use their notes on tests for the first time in my teaching career. It really changed everything about my job.”
Sanders also speaks about her struggles and how the most significant struggles she has faced this year are time and motivation. Since she teaches in-person and virtual learners for each hour of the day, her normal 6-grade books (1 for each hour) have split into 12-grade books. It is hard to keep up with grading and answering questions for everyone, and she feels like she is always running out of time. Students, especially her virtual learners, are having a hard time staying motivated. Sanders says, “Parents are throwing in the towel and she can only do so much when I can’t help them face to face. It is extremely disheartening to know I can’t help those students in the same way I could during a normal school year.”
Overall, Sanders feels that a typical day of teaching does not exist anymore. She teaches from behind a plastic curtain that she built using shower curtains and fishing lines to keep her high-risk family as safe as possible. In a typical year, Sanders would be walking around the room as she teaches, so this is a considerable change. Sanders risks her life every day to keep students educated and doing everything she can to ensure their success even though she has a high-risk family.
Nurse Cheyenne Maxwell’s daily routine is spending the shift in the KU Covid-19 unit while spending her nights trying to finish up nursing school. A covid shift involves a lot more PPE (personal protective equipment). This includes a mask depending on the type of oxygen the patient receives or any procedures they might undergo. “I wore a face shield or goggles, gowns and gloves. At the beginning of Covid, I wore an N95 mask and a surgical mask but now I have a respirator. I wear both causes extremely sore face and can even create a wound. I have so many pictures of my face so red, bruised, and filled with sores from wearing the masks for 12 hours.”
Maxwells’ days also involve many zoom calls with family members to stay connected during this challenging time. “That is another thing I learned; crying is okay, this is not easy for anyone, and bundling up emotions will just make it worse.”
She even helps patients prepare for their family zoom calls. She does this by holding patient’s hands, giving them “spa days” to look their best on zoom, and telling or listening to stories. Many of the patients she worked with end up on breathing machines and sedated; she still thinks it is essential to talk with them still.
“Another big change for me was how I came home. Prior to covid, my routine would be to come home and eat and then shower if needed. For the past year now, I come home and strip my scrubs in the garage and go straight to the shower. After the shower, I throw my towels and scrubs into the washer in hot water. I disinfect everything including door knobs, light switches, shower, and all of my items I bring home from work (purse, phone, lunch box, coffee cup, etc.) After this I am able to eat and finally relax the best I can.”
A big reason why Maxwell is a modern-day hero is her compassion for her patients. It is human nature to take time for granted, but Covid was the reminder that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Her goal is to always treat her patients like family members and smile on their faces. “Now more than ever, I know how important it is to build a relationship with my patients. I may be the only person they see, hold hands with, or cry with. It’s also made me super thankful for all the time I was able to spend with my family prior to covid.”
The life of a social worker is nothing short of extraordinary. Mark Churchill works at The Grooming Project, where he helps with Young peoples mental health getting off the street and the struggles they have gone through. Social workers have always been there for the community, but this is more impactful than ever between paying rent for a family whose head of household just lost his job or helping a woman off the street who needs mental support. Mark Churchill says, “One of the biggest changes has been having to work remotely and having no face to face contact with the clients. Social work is an area that has relied on the face to face work with clients. When you don’t see them in person, you are not able to read a lot of the non verbal cues. Preparing a staff to work remotely has also been a challenge especially when no one was used to that. Just the wearing of mask and social distancing is all changes in how we now must communicate.”
The modern-day heroes do not wear capes or fly, but they make a significant impact in the community; they show the public they can be scared, but there are people there to help them. We are not alone in this challenging time. Covid-19 has altered the way we live our lives, and it might have an impact that lasts a lifetime, but we can be confident knowing that we have people supporting us like Sanders, Maxwell, and Churchill. It is okay to be scared, but we will be okay.
Ramie Churchill is a senior Art and Digital Communications major at the University of Saint Mary, along with an officer for JCOM and editor for SpireTimes.