Voices in Humanism

Emily Evans, BSN, RN

This is Fine

     Emily Evans returned to work last Monday and when she did, the welcome she received moved her to tears. The tears came again in this telling.
     “I was gone 40 days and 40 nights. It was practically biblical. First, we were in quarantine exposed to Covid by a family member, then my 11-year-old daughter contracted Covid, then I did. When I returned to work Monday and before she even had her coat off, put her stuff down, or grabbed a cup of coffee, my co-worker, Sarah Szczepanik, arrived and said, ‘Where’s Emily?’ She found me and hugged me tight.”
     Emily is an Oncology Nurse for The Ohio State University Hospitals. When she speaks of the support she has received she pauses, breathes, then wipes her eyes.
     The Bing Crosby character, Father O’Malley, in the old movie, “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” said to Ingrid Berman as the nun, “If you need anything, dial ‘O for O’Malley’.” Emily has her own understanding “O’Malley,” her colleague Dr. David O’Malley, who has been a pillar of support for her. “I couldn’t have weathered this and all without him,” she explained.
     Dedication to her patients is paramount for this 34-year-old nurse and when she speaks of them, some whose time on earth grows short, her emotions get the most of her. One of the patients going through chemo has a child now with Covid. Another patient’s husband died alone from Covid. Emily discovered that a patient beginning a trial treatment this coming week lives in the house next door to Emily’s beloved deceased grandmother’s old house. She hopes Grandma Dorothy will help that patient from above, as she has helped Emily through the years.
     “In the beginning of the epidemic I put this meme [below] up in our office. See? flames all around and we are just carrying on as if things were fine. This detached, yet still deeply caring attitude, helps us function and not be overwhelmed.”

     “In the early Covid days,” Emily continued, “for three months, as a precaution, my kids had to be away with my parents and other relatives. I would go to work, come home and break into hives each night alone. It was scary. It just gets really hard. I am not on the Covid frontlines but I am tired, so so tired.”
     Along with work, and as a single mom, Emily also has her three children schooling virtually at home. “Some days I do work from home and one day,” Emily recalled, “I was on a video call as the mailman knocked, Camryn was learning juggling with plastic bags, the dog was barking, for music class the twins were singing, When the Saints Go Marching In, so I gave up trying to display a totally professional office screen appearance. We are at war with this Covid and life is complicated. We just need to carry on the best we can and appreciate and protect each other. My patients understand.”
     When we emerge from the pandemic, Emily and her colleagues, in their offices at Mill Run, have an idea for their victory celebration. “We are going to remove that meme posted in March, which is now slipping down the wall and curling up at the edges, and get rid of it,” she said. “Maybe we will bring in a marching band.”

Pat Wynn Brown
Writer and Performer
Medicine and the Arts Board
Author: ESSENTIAL STORIES: Medicine During COVID-19 and the Lives of Practitioners at The OSU Wexner Medical Center