New York, NY

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This is part of our series, Flattened By the Curve, which features the voices of doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, and others on the front lines against COVID-19. For information on how to submit, click here.

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One of my first COVID patients was a young man, 38 years old. He was a nurse, like me. Sometimes his sedation would be too low, and he would wake up and gesture to me for the things that he needed. He couldn’t write, so most of the time it took a long while for me to get the message. When I did and helped him with those things, he would sign “thank you.”

Sometimes I would just stand there holding hands with him, and I would massage his head with my free hand until the increased sedation dose kicked in. I felt a kinship with him. I thought about him every day. Did I do enough? Did I do everything I could? Did I advocate enough for him? “He’s young,” I thought, “he’ll be ok.”

After a week like this, he died. The day I found out I went into a new patient’s room, gowned and masked, and I cried as I completed my daily tasks: performing my assessment, administering medications, making sure he was clean and appeared comfortable. He wasn’t conscious, so I didn’t care that I had tears streaming down my face.

There wasn’t time to feel my feelings. I just had to move on and take care of the many other people so they wouldn’t die, too. The worst part was that most of them did anyway.

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Erin is a critical care nurse that lives in Brooklyn, New York. When she’s not working, she enjoys being a dog mom, being in the sun, and traveling (when appropriate). A California native, she will soon be returning to the San Francisco area, where you can find her at Fort Funston or in the Mission.