Risking Lives to Save Ours – Thank You to Our Health-Care Workers

Risking lives to save ours – Thank you to the Health-Care Workers

Since the news began running stories on the novel coronavirus in China and the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 health crisis a Pandemic, I have been obsessed with the news. I watched in horror as the unimaginable death toll in China continued to rise daily. I first learned how the city of Wuhan, in the Province of Hubei, was “locked down” and then other large regions were also locked down to thwart the spread of the swiftly-moving, deadly disease. Then, we heard other stories in the news about Italy, Japan, cruise ships, and countries all over the world who were battling outbreaks. It was surreal watching it unfold.

I had a family member who was playing professional volleyball in Italy, so I closely followed their stories. I heard how the people in the northern region of Lombardy were quarantined and couldn’t go outside except for essential needs. Soon more and more northern regions were quarantined.

I learned that the professional volleyball league my family member played in was suspended (much like all other sports in Italy). Soon afterward, the more southerly regions, including Florence, were also quarantined. Weddings, funerals, and gatherings of any kind were stopped. Hospitals were overcome with COVID-19 patients. Ventilators and PPE’s were in short supply. If you had to go out in public, you were asked to wear a mask and physical distance from one another.  You had to have a note from the Police stating why you were out. It was unfathomable.

I read stories of how health-care workers in Italy were forced to make decisions about who would get a ventilator and who would not. All the while, the world-wide death toll continued to rise. Neighboring countries such as France, Spain, and the UK soon saw themselves in similar situations fighting a silent enemy that we knew very little about. 

Then the stories started hitting closer to home in the US and Canada. In Canada we had our first confirmed case in Ontario, then in BC, and then in Quebec. On March 5th Alberta reported its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus now named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization. As the world raced to embrace this battle with the COVID-19, our Prime Minister urged Canadians abroad to come home. Soon after, we closed our own borders and turned to fighting this deadly disease.

With the tightening of border restrictions to “essential travel” only, the wedding industry braced for the cancellation of upcoming weddings. As a mountain wedding specialist, many of my clients are destination couples from the US and elsewhere around the globe. Like many others in the wedding industry, I started contacting couples with upcoming weddings to discuss the potential postponement or cancellation of their weddings.  At this time, we were still having elopement weddings in the Rockies, and I did my first elopement following the “new normal” and we practiced social distancing. It was strange, but doable for outdoor ceremonies in the Rockies where we could social distance for days. But soon, even elopements were postponed as access to the National Parks were closed, and people were advised to stay home. There was a lot of uncertainty. I clients asked should we cancel or postpone our wedding? Should we wait this out and hold onto the hope that we can still hold our wedding in 2020?

I did as most wedding planners did – made alternate plans for our clients, moved dates, and sometimes canceled them altogether. It was heart-breaking for couples who had put so much time and energy into planning the wedding of the dreams and now everything had changed.

I remembered reading a story about a couple who were pulmonologists working in the same hospital in Northern Italy (the epicenter of the virus in Italy). They were supposed to be planning their wedding and instead were battling the coronavirus on the frontlines. They worked countless hours every day and hadn’t seen their young daughter in over a month. They recounted stories of their first coronavirus patients (two brothers who had both been affected), and how exhausted they were at the end of the day, but they were grateful that they had each other and their health (though much depleted and in constant risk). I don’t recall the exact number, but I had learned how a large percentage of health care workers in Italy were affected by COVID-19. Every day, more and more health care workers risked their health and their lives to help others.

In Canada, we were just beginning to experience some of what the people in Italy were experiencing. We in Canada have had the benefit of learning from the experience in Italy and other countries hardest hit by the virus. Each day I watch Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer give her somber reports on the state of the virus in Alberta, and it seems like every day without fail, I shed a few tears, especially when hearing about outbreaks in some of our most vulnerable populations like continuing care facilities. As Dr. Hinshaw reminds us, each death is significant and shouldn’t be treated as just a number. We shouldn’t be numb to how this virus can have serious outcomes in anyone (and it has, unfortunately in too many Albertans). The virus does not discriminate.

Here in Canada, we don’t always see the effects of the virus as they have in Italy. We worry about being quarantined and having to social distance. I don’t take this lightly as I know it has taken its toll on many Albertans, in different ways. But we don’t have the same experience that our frontline health care workers and essential service providers have experienced.

In conversations with several of my clients who are in the health industry, I’ve learned that they are in a very similar position to the young Italian couple. Every day they go to work, they put their health and lives on the line for our safety. No one has been more at the forefront in fighting this deadly disease than our frontline workers…nurses, doctors, EMT staff, police, firefighters, the hospital workers who clean and disinfect to keep the nurses and doctors safe, and many, many more.

To Dr. Hinshaw, and all those from AHS, and all health-care workers and front-line workers. You are our Health Heroes. I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the incredible sacrifices you have made.

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