Kaitlyn White, Laboratory
It all started with a Facebook post. At least, for me, it did. Out-dated and falsified articles are majority of what gets passed around on social media. So when I came across one mentioning a possible unknown virus coming from Asia, I just kept scrolling. I mean, I’m a lab tech. If there is an outbreak of anything, we will be right in the middle of it. I knew that if it was real, my peers and I would be the first to know seeming as how we would be the ones testing for this so called “coronavirus”.
Gradually, discussion of this possible epidemic became more and more frequent. A casual topic of discussion over lunch, or fuel for conspiracy theorists. Still, I kept my wits about me and hoped whatever this was, would stay overseas.
Then there was the first case in the U.S……and the first case in NC…..and the first case in our area…..and finally the first case at CarolinaEast. By then, social distancing measures were put into play. However, due to the fact that this virus is unknown, I don’t believe anyone really knew how strict we should be with it. Masks weren’t mandatory in healthcare facilities yet, businesses hadn’t closed yet, and our governor had just begun giving the first of many executive orders. The news of Covid-19 related deaths soon followed.
By this time, of course, majority of the population knew two things for certain: Corona was real and it was here. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that anyone anticipated just how much of an impact this would have in a short period of time. As I mentioned, I work in the lab. I graduated with my MLT degree in May of 2018, but had been a lab employee at CEMC since November of 2017. I was allowed to get a head start and work part-time during my clinical rotations. I didn’t expect to be fighting a global pandemic at the start of my career, but it wasn’t like I didn’t know the exposure risks of this job. I had fully prepared myself, mentally and physically, that at some point I was going to either be directly exposed or contract COVID-19. That’s the risk I signed up for when I accepted this job. I respected it, but I was not afraid. One thing I had not prepared myself for was the possibility that my friends and loved ones could get sick as well.
Liz. My coworker, my previous phlebotomy mentor, and my friend. I could never have predicted that Thursday night, in the break room, would have been the last conversation we’d ever have. I wish I could have, but like many, I underestimated the threat that we were facing. Surely, it was just another glucose episode right? Maybe the flu? There’s no way…
Things sped up a bit after that weekend. I, as well as my peers, got the call that we had been directly exposed. I got tested. I was quarantined. My results were negative. I went back to work.
We got the news. We mourned. We celebrated life. We went back to work.
Our procedures changed daily. We adopted new testing methods as soon as they received FDA approval. We truly did hit the ground running. The amount of uncertainty surrounding this virus made it difficult to memorize how you’re supposed to do things. No sooner than we would clock out, and return the next day, there would be a revision to our manuals. I began to realize the gravity of a modern-day pandemic. Nothing like this had happened since medicine had evolved to our current standards. It didn’t matter how advanced our analyzers were, how intelligent our physicians were, or how fit we are as a species. A living virus does not follow a protocol. Until we can predict the future, all we have is our best. Our best scientists. Our best doctors, nurses, government officials. Our best selves. History is being made in our lifetime. 2020 will no longer be just a number. Future generations will read about the events that have transpired this year. They will study our methods and learn from them. They will improve them and prepare for the next possible threat.
They will hear stories of our resilience. Our compassion. Our ability to unite in the face of uncertainty. Communities that have come together during these dark times and have created a bond like no other. We will recover. We will learn. We will get back to normal.
But until that time comes, please remember one thing:
You can’t see it, but I am smiling behind my mask in this picture. Not from lack of concern or seriousness, but from an abundance of hope. In every country, every city, and every community millions of people have a personal impact into how we combat this virus. When the order is given to stay home and wait it out, there is a large number of people who do the opposite. When duty calls, we answer. We transition from our designated isolation sweat pants and don our uniforms. Medical professionals. First responders. Government officials. This is what we do. The possibility of a global threat is not something we hope for, but something we are prepared for. Regardless of the uncertainty we face, our passion will never burn out. Our drive to help others will never change. We are here for you. We care about you. We go to work, every day with you in mind. So have hope. We will get through this together and we will grow from it.
My name is Kaitlyn. I’m a Medical Laboratory Technician and I’m here to serve.