The vaccine has just been rolled out, and frontline health workers are still exhausted. Occupational therapist Lizzy Pesch captured their emotions in a beautiful poem.
Lizzy Pesch is an occupational therapist who has been treating patients with Coronavirus for the past nine months, ever since the pandemic first hit the United States. Like many other frontline health workers, she has been working immensely long hours and dealing with the "unpredictable and devastating" challenges of the public health crisis. Many professionals in healthcare remain voiceless, focusing on healing one patient after another. Therefore, Pesch decided to share her struggles in a moving poem, detailing all the difficulties of what it means to be a medical professional right now. The poem was a spur of the moment creation, first noted down on a Post-it, Good Morning America reports.
"When you work at a hospital, you like to see patients get better and go home or go onto the next line of care," she said. "With [Coronavirus], just the sheer number of people that we have seen become [sicker] or eventually pass, it can be discouraging and upsetting. I don’t think we’re used to it at the volume that we’re seeing." Pesch currently works at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital in St. Peters, Missouri. She contracted the novel Coronavirus herself back in November but healed with only mild symptoms.
Right before Thanksgiving, the occupational therapist saw a scene play out between a critically ill [Coronavirus]-positive patient and a fellow nurse. This moment displayed to her the sacrifices that many have had to make because of the pandemic. Pesch explained, "Before I even had a chance to remove my gown and face shield and everything, I saw a family member sitting outside in an adjacent room, looking in the room at their family member who was dying of Coronavirus. The family member couldn’t be in the room and the nurse was taking care of the patient. Just seeing this nurse touch the patient when the family wasn’t allowed to, it just struck a chord with me. It really hit me hard."
At that moment, she paused to appreciate her fellow health workers. She also experienced a deep sadness for the families and loved ones who were similarly suffering through the pandemic. Pesch soon returned to the nurses' station and picked up a Post-it, on which she wrote the first two lines for what later became her full-fledged poem. She wrote, "Can’t hold your hand through doors of glass. Watch nurses touch you as you pass." The therapist said the glass doors that divide the rooms in the ICU are what inspired her: "To be able to see your loved one and not be able to touch them in their final moments, I can’t imagine how painful that has to be."
When she went home after her shift, she woke up at 5 am inspired to complete the poem. "Watching you suffer is destroying my heart," Pesch wrote in part. "We healthcare workers are falling apart. You’re someone’s Grandma, You’re someone’s son, and people’s lives are coming undone. Your body is hurting, and my heart it aches, as I see the fear that’s across your face." She shared the completed poem in a Facebook group for health care workers created by a local nurse. Almost immediately, she was flooded with messages of thanks and appreciation. "A lot of people said, 'You were able to put what I feel and what I see into words,'" Pesch shared. "It’s a wide range of emotions that got summed up into the poem." You can read her full poem below.
Can’t hold your hand through doors of glass,
Watch nurses touch you as you pass.
It’s not just night shift that’s up at night,
As we all worry that things aren't right.
Your lungs are on fire, struggling for air,
Because someone without a mask just didn’t care.
Watching you suffer is destroying my heart,
We healthcare workers are falling apart.
When I get dressed for work, it’s not just a job,
When I lose another patient, it’s in my car that I sob.
You see I am human, I bleed just like you,
And with each death that I witness, a part of me dies too.
You’re someone’s Grandma, You’re someone’s son,
And people’s lives are coming undone.
Your body is hurting, and my heart it aches,
As I see the fear that’s across your face.
I know when I touch you, I touch you with gloves,
But underneath there are hands touching with love.
You probably think you’re fighting alone,
But at the end of each shift I’m taking you home.