Frontline medical workers fight 2 battles: coronavirus and fear

FOX40 for Heroes
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ROSEVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) — After 14 years wearing her white laboratory coat, Dr. Rebekah Caravelli thought she’d seen it all — until the novel coronavirus.

“The biggest challenge has been the uncertainty and the anxiety,” Dr. Caravelli, an emergency medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente Roseville, told FOX40. “The fear can really weigh on you.”

Caravelli has been one of the many health care workers putting their own health at risk to keep others alive. It’s a sacrifice Caravelli says she signed up for, but nothing she and her team could emotionally prepare for.

“We’ve all trained to take care of critically ill patients at the times they are most vulnerable but to predict something where the whole country was in isolation and on lockdown, we’re homeschooling our kids, I don’t think this is something any of us could have predicted,” Caravelli said.

Those with the most serious COVID-19 symptoms come to the hospital, where frontline staff have been working around the clock to provide lifesaving treatment.

“One of the bright spots in all of this is just the teamwork. The teamwork with my staff, my colleagues on the frontlines taking care of patients to the teamwork of leadership here at Kaiser who have really come together to create innovative strategies to safely care for patients to the teamwork of our community,” Caravelli said.

Nearly 5,000 Californians are believed to have been hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the California Department of Public Health.

And in emergency rooms across the country, doctors and nurses are offering patients care of a different kind — comfort — as visitation is paused. 

“I think not allowing loved ones and visitors is a real challenge, because who’s there to provide that empathy, that support? It’s us. It’s the physicians and I think we can’t forget that,” Caravelli said. “While we may have our own fears and anxieties in taking care of patients, they have their own fears and anxieties and we need to be empathetic and go that extra mile, especially since they don’t have their loved one with them.”

Giving the gift of human connection at a time it matters most is just one of the reasons why Californians are giving thanks to their health care heroes.

“Emergency medicine can be a pretty thankless job and to get a thank you really fills our hearts and helps us keep going,” Caravelli said.

For Caravelli and other medical workers, it’s not a choice but a calling, with the greatest reward being when a patient goes home.

“I don’t consider myself a hero. I consider my team a hero. The hero is all of us as the teamwork and everyone coming together,” she said.

Caravelli says emergency room visits have been down amid the coronavirus pandemic and she encourages people to seek hospital care when they need it.

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