ER doctor's day-in-the-life story shows reality for healthcare workers 6 months in

Here we are, six months into the coronavirus pandemic, and people are tired. We're tired of social distancing, wearing masks, the economic uncertainty, the constant debates and denials, all of it.

But no one is more tired than the healthcare workers on the frontline. Those whom we celebrated and hailed as heroes months ago have largely been forgotten as news cycles shift and increased illness and death become "normal." But they're still there. They're still risking themselves to save others. And they've been at it for a long time.

Mary Katherine Backstrom shared her experience as the wife of an ER doctor in Florida, explaining the impact this pandemic is having on the people treating its victims and reminding us that healthcare workers are still showing up, despite all of the obstacles that make their jobs harder.


Backstrom wrote:

"When Ian got home from work last Monday, I could tell it had been a rough shift. He kicked his shoes off on the backdoor stoop as he wrapped up a call with a specialist.

'Please keep me posted,' I heard him say. 'I'm hoping they make some progress.'

He'd been off the clock for at least 3 hours, but was still advocating for a patient.

'Hey baby,' I said when he walked through the door.

'Hey,' he responded with a half-hearted smile. He walked straight past me and the children.

The kids used to squeal and attack their Daddy when he walked through the door from work. It was his favorite thing in the whole wide world, but it's not allowed anymore.

The 'Daddy's Home!' hug has been canceled for some time, now. One more thing the pandemic has stolen.

Ian disappeared into our bedroom after throwing his scrubs straight in the wash. He jumped in the shower and I went outside to sprayed down his shoes with disinfectant.

Twenty minutes later, we sat down for dinner.

I asked him how his work day was. He was worried sick over a patient. They had come to the hospital critically ill, and tested positive for Covid.

'He was terrified, MK. The look on his face broke my heart.'

Ian pushed his chicken around with a fork, but seemed too distracted to eat.

'Do you know what he said to me before he was intubated?' he continued. 'He said he was sorry. He thought the whole thing was a hoax.'

The frustration on Ian's face was plain. He was fighting an uphill battle. How do you save a country that doesn't believe it's sick?

I didn't ask for any more details. I knew how my husband was feeling.

Heck, ask ANY health care worker how they are feeling right now. I can tell you what they're going to say.

They are tired. Bone tired.

Mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Six months later, the pandemic is still here. It's still claiming lives at a horrifying pace.

40,000 lives.

60,000.

100,000.

160,000....

These workers who months ago were hailed as 'heroes' have practically been forgotten. But they are still out there on the frontlines.

Still diagnosing, still intubating, still holding the hands of dying patients. Still risking their health (and the health of their families) by showing up, every day.

They are fighting against a growing monster, that feels more and more unconquerable. Not that it keeps them from doing their job.

Accolades be damned, healthcare workers show up.

As their pay is cut. As nurses are let go. As the pandemic rages on.

Healthcare workers show up.

As the virus spreads. As conspiracy theories abound.

Healthcare workers show up.

They put their N95s in a brown paper lunch sack, praying it works for another week. They make their arrangements 'just in case'...but healthcare workers show up.

***

Two days later at 4 am, I woke to the sound of our Keurig. I rolled out of bed to give Ian a hug and wish him a good day at work. There was a tired sadness in his eyes, so I asked him if something was wrong.

'My patient died,' he said with a sigh. 'The one I was so worried about.'

'I'm so sorry,' I said, hugging him tight. 'You did everything you could.'

The conflict was clear across his face, but he didn't argue the point. He just grabbed his coffee and kissed my cheek, then headed out the door.

Because even when they are devastated. Even when they are tired. Even when they are losing hope. Even as conspiracy theories thrive, medicine is politicized, and sound science is rejected. As an out-of-control pandemic wrecks havoc on the community they serve...

Even then.

Perhaps, especially then.

Healthcare workers show up.

❤️ Healthcare burnout is at an all time high. Please share this message and thank a HCW today. They are STILL everyday heroes. ❤️"

The post has been shared widely, with fellow healthcare workers commenting with gratitude and solidarity:

"Thank you! Psychiatric nurse here. We are so tired and there just isn't enough to go around and still SO MANY that don't believe."

"I work with covid patients. My fellow X-ray techs and I take these patients chest and abdominal X-rays. It has been a battle, to say the least. It's a slap in the face to us to all by those who think it's the flu, or a hoax or don't wear masks. My coworker and I were talking today about how difficult it had been and even though things are better in Illinois, it's still here. We still work, no pay raises, cut hours, shifting of hours and nobody has taken vacation days since all this began. We are sad, tired, burned out and ridden with anxiety. Thank you for the thank you."

"[Thank you] for your observation and words of encouragement to all of us in this field. It is scary, heartbreaking and devastating, never would I have imagined encountering something like this in my career as I'm sure others have felt the same."

"Love this story, and it makes me sad at the same time, because this is about as close to the truth as it gets 😢 I work in EMS, and it's so disheartening, that people aren't taking this seriously, and they believe that masks are of no help at all! Please people, wake up....I will pray, that you aren't my next patient 😔"

"Yes! My husband is in EMS and has been caring for Covid patients several times a shift for months. He and at least 14 others in his service are out with Covid currently. We've been so careful but there's only so much you can do when it's your job. My entire family has it currently and it's awful. Hugs."

"This is so so true! As an ICU nurse I know the death of COVID all too well 😔 I try to avoid the ignorance of non-medical people, their misguided information frustrates and saddens me."

"I'm a health care worker. I was saying to my husband as I'm starting a 5 day rotation. I told him I'm filled with dread. My stomach is queasy, my heart hurts. I'm on the verge of tears.We are pushed to our limits. We're a small rural hospital, we get PPE but we have to take care of it until it's worn out or no longer safe. More rooms for COVID added weekly. All I can do is pray for safety of myself and my co workers. This thing is so real. I know how Ian feels. Much love MK."

"My husband is a nurse. He cares deeply for his patients. Covid is breaking his heart. We have to stay completely separate from him because on of our sons has leukemia. He lives in two rooms of our home. Climbs in and out of a window. He can't be hugged by his family! It is frustrating to read the posts that say this a political virus or a hoax. I am praying for your husband along with all our frontline workers."

"I am in RN in a COVID ICU and it's devastating what this disease is doing to people and so incredibly heartbreaking. Thank you for posting this as I do feel we have been forgotten."

Here's to all the healthcare workers who continue to show up, continue to care, continue to put their own lives and health on the line to save others. They continue to be the heroes of this battle and deserve our continued, unbridled support.


Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Emily Vondy's mom fail.

Sometimes, we have to just laugh at our failures.

“Here’s a little story to allow all the moms of littles out there to maybe feel a little better about yourself,” Emily Vondy told her 1.3 million TikTok followers.

In a TikTok video that has now garnered more than 500,000 views, Vondy shared perhaps one of the most hilarious “mom fail” stories of all time: forgetting her son’s actual birthdate.
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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Images from Denver Animal Shelter's Facebook page.

Imagine rummaging through secondhand finds in your local thrift store, only to find that some items include a bonus feline at no extra charge.

Montequlla the orange tabby had somehow not gotten the memo that he and his family were moving. As they dropped off furniture, including a big recliner chair, to the Denver Arc Thrift Store on New Year’s Eve, they had no idea that poor little Montequlla was tucked away inside.

Luckily, the staff began to notice the chair meowing.

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This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015


Remember those beloved Richard Scarry books from when you were a kid?

Like a lot of people, I grew up reading them. And now, I read them to my kids.

The best!

If that doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this character from the "Busytown" series will. Classic!

Image via

Scarry was an incredibly prolific children's author and illustrator. He created over 250 books during his career. His books were loved across the world — over 100 million were sold in many languages.

But here's something you may not have known about these classics: They've been slowly changing over the years.

Don't panic! They've been changing in a good way.

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