By Nichole Harwood
ABQ-Live the Magazine would like to thank all the nurses that keep New Mexico strong. During this time our community leans on your strength and courage in fighting this pandemic.
We were honored to sit down with two Albuquerque nurses to share their stories with our readership.
The Night Nurse
On May 14 Revé Silva shared a Facebook post summarizing a day at work for her mother Rebecca Silva. Rebecca Silva is a registered nurse at Lovelace Hospital in downtown Albuquerque. The post detailed a particularly difficult day: a patient who had lost their voice due to the coronavirus, cried silently at her inability to speak with her daughter and family.
“My mom’s doing the thing anybody would dread doing most right now, but she still puts in the same effort and compassion that she did when she was excited about her job,” Silva said in her post.
Silva’s mother is just one of many nurses who put their lives on the line to aid in New Mexico’s fight against the coronavirus, helping their patients both physically and emotionally recover.
The night Revé Silva’s post described was a particularly emotional experience for Rebecca Silva. The patient is from a family of nine, all of who contracted the coronavirus. Her patient was the last member of the family to recover. The emotional encounter was particularly impactful and Silva can still remember the patient’s tears, along with her own, as she told the patient how much her family missed her. Afterward, Silva connected the patient with her family on the phone, and although the patient couldn’t talk because her voice was a whisper, she was able to still hear her daughter and family.
“Since then she’s been in touch with her daughter and I did see her get stronger and she got her feeding tube out and I believe is on her way home,” Silva said.
While wearing the mask, face shield and gown is difficult, Silva said she still sees working with the patients and trying to help them with simple things, such as comfort measures, as a positive experience. As a night nurse Silva’s work can be exhausting, but she said her family has been very supportive, with her younger children working hard to be quiet during the day so their mother can rest for work.
While Silva is appreciative of the community’s help, she hopes the public begins to see the importance of cleanliness. Silva believes that housekeepers are essential everywhere, all the time.
“I would like to see that cleanliness becomes a bigger part of our lives,” Silva said. “I know I noticed in the past, not only in hospitals but just in the community, in grocery stores, housekeeping has been cut everywhere, and they’re some of the first workers to go when we need to tighten up budgets and so forth. I really feel like we need to get back to the basics of just keeping things clean.”
Silva encourages the public to continue to wear masks and social distance. Despite certain members of the public thinking the coronavirus isn’t a great concern, Silva said she thinks there will be a surge of cases after the state reopens.
“We got to help each other out and without everybody’s concern for each other the pandemic and our situation here in New Mexico is just going to get worse,” Silva said.
While Silva herself would like to see events open up, she encourages the public to put everyone’s safety first. One event Silva missed seeing was the Gathering of Nations, which was canceled earlier this year. She was reminded of the event when she heard her 80-year-old patient singing in Navajo.
“He told me that his song was about Mother Earth and Father Sky. I don’t know, I just loved to hear his singing. It was a beautiful thing for me,” she said.
For Revé Silva, her mother’s work is beautiful and she said she admires her for her courage during this time. Attached to her post is a photo of her mother that Silva said was taken to show everyone what her mother has to wear at work.
“You can tell that she even smiled behind that mask,” Silva’s post said. “The same mask she cries behind when she gets tired. Whatever your job is right now, whether it’s as a healthcare provider or an improvising homeschool teacher, whether your job is to go to the store today or even just to stay sane as you cry at home into a jar of nutella, whatever your job is today, in this world, just do it. But do it bravely. And do it with kindness.”
The ER Nurse
The Emergency Room can be a scary place to work, but for Presbyterian nurse Tamara Brooks, being there for patients is the most important thing she can be doing right now.
“The hardest part about this time is that patients aren’t allowed visitors right now when they are in the hospital,” Brooks said. “I work in the ER and it’s a scary place, especially if you are a patient and have no one with you. That’s why it is very critical at this time of being a nurse to be there for my patients and put myself in their shoes. Seeing patients or anyone for that matter die alone is one of the worst things to see.”
Despite the difficulty of her job, Brooks said she has seen the community come together for frontline workers. Multiple local businesses, Brooks said, have been donating their services to help the hospital staff during this time.
“I’m sad that it took something like this for the public to see how important healthcare workers are, but I’m glad people are aware now. And everyone remember, hospitals aren’t just made up of doctors and nurses. There are so many other titles that deserve recognition, don’t forget about them,” Brooks said.
Much like Silva, Brooks said her family has been extremely supportive, with many people reaching out to her to check up.
“The hardest part about all of this is not being able to have that social interaction that we are all used to having. I’ve had lots of FaceTime dates with friends and family. Just making themselves available for me 24/7 to talk to has made the world of a difference,” she said.
Brooks encourages the public to stay safe by ensuring they follow proper handwashing guidelines using antibacterial soap for a full 20 seconds.
While she looks forward to everything returning to normal she knows that her most important job right now is to keep her patients calm and safe.
“This is a highly stressful time for everyone,” Brooks said. “Being able to have a job where I can care for the sick is such a huge blessing to me and even more important now.”
Brooks encourages everyone to realize they are in this together.
“You’re not the only one who’s having a rough time right now, I promise you,” she said. “Stick it out. Work together to keep our community and state, safe and healthy.