You’ll Never See Nurses the Same After Reading Raw Letters From the Front Line
DearWorld.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to telling the stories of our time, has launchedDear Nurses, a portrait series celebrating heroes working in hospitals amid the horror of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In honor of 2020 being designated as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, DearWorld.org has partnered with the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) to interview and capture portraits of 40 nurses working in COVID-19 units across Louisiana. Each portrait features a personal message written on their skin, Dear World’s signature storytelling medium, and includes a first-person account of the story that inspired the words written on their bodies.
The Wheelchair Kept Squeaking
This is the story of an “Asian lady” who passed away from the coronavirus, told from the perspective of Chariz Montminy, the nurse who took care of her in her final days. She came into the hospital with her husband who also had the virus. They were in the rooms right next to each other, both fighting the same fight.
“She was so cute, this Asian lady. She reminded me of my mom,” the nurse wrote. She entered the hospital looking like she would recover, “but then she stopped talking. She stopped moving one side of her body. She was still breathing but barely. One day she’s talking to me, and then, the next day she was suddenly deteriorating, slipping away.”
“She was supposed to be okay,” the letter read, but then, “we found out she had multiple strokes in her head from the Coronavirus, basically because it’s a complication from the virus itself. She was growing a bunch of clots in her head, a huge clot in her heart, and it spread all over her legs. She was dying right before our eyes.”
Once they had this realization, they wheeled her husband over from his room to be with her in her final moments.
“He was in the wheelchair, and all he wanted to do was just hold her hand. So, he kept moving the wheelchair. It was the most awkward thing to witness. Everybody’s just watching the wheelchair move in an attempt to get it right, to get them close enough to touch. But the wheelchair kept squeaking,” the letter reads.
Irving Cartegena dreamed of becoming a doctor growing up, however, his journey was tougher than he could have imagined. His college experience was lackluster, which made it difficult for him to get into any medical school in the U.S. He eventually decided to go to medical school in Mexico.
The next seven years of his life were filled with “one failure after another.” He couldn’t pass his board exams and one day, the dean of his school called him and said “Irving, look. I know you’ve been doing this for a while, and I admire your persistence, but I think it’s time to consider a change.” He was devastated — this was his life’s work.
He turned to his faith and prayed for clarity. Then, one night, he had a life-changing dream where a mysterious figure told him, “You know, I always knew you wouldn’t make it. You and me, we’re gonna be alright.”
To Cartenega, this was God telling him, “He had a better goal prepared for me” and “All of this was part of the plan, but it wasn’t THE PLAN.”
Today, Cartenega is a nurse. He has found that he serves his purpose better as a nurse than he could have as a doctor. “I have also discovered that what nurses give to patients is something that can’t be compared,” he wrote. Nurses are the ones sitting by their bedside, 12 hours a day for days on end.
“Throughout this entire pandemic, the hardest thing to see has been the look and feeling of loneliness and fear in the eyes of a patient who can’t see or speak to their loved ones,” he wrote.
He realized that we are not in control. “That presence—whatever you want to call it, I call it God—that love, that desire for good to happen in all of our lives, and for good to exist in this world, is there and it always will be… and we’re gonna be OK!,” the letter read.
These are the stories that connect us. It is easy to lose touch with reality when we get consumed by statistics and data, but the coronavirus is affecting real people. Sharing their stories restores our sense of humanity.
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