Health care heroes: Meet some of workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic

Know Your Value asked you to share stories of you or your loved ones. What you told us was nothing short of inspirational.
From left to right: Oncologist director Dr. Julianne Childs, registered nurse in the ICU Cindy Erickson and medical laboratory scientist Ashley M. Dumas.
From left to right: Oncologist director Dr. Julianne Childs, registered nurse in the ICU Cindy Erickson and medical laboratory scientist Ashley M. Dumas.Courtesy of Dr. Julianne Childs, Cindy Erickson and Ashley M. Dumas.

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By Gina Navaroli

Health care workers are putting their lives on the line every day to battle the coronavirus pandemic. In effort to honor just a few of these health care heroes, Know Your Value asked first responders to tell us what the situation is like where they live and how they’re doing.

Here are just a few of your amazing submissions about you or your loved ones:

Jessica Montanaro, critical care nurse in the ICU

Critical care nurse in the ICU Jessica Montanaro at Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital in New York City.Courtesy of Jessica Montanaro

Jessica Montanaro views her role at Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital in New York City as more than just her job.

“Nursing is who I am,” Montanaro said. “It’s part of my being, not just something I do as a job, (especially) this time more than ever.”

She and her colleagues are too busy trying to save lives rather than focusing on the failures. And as many of them feel exhausted, she said they’re supporting each other to keep fighting.

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“While we are mentally, physically, and emotionally depleted and exhausted trying to keep our patients alive, our families healthy and our own sanity, we are fighting and we are finding ways to care for each other and stay uplifted,” Montanaro said.

Dr. Julianne Childs, oncologist director

Dr. Julianne Childs, oncologist director at HOPE Community Cancer Center in Marmora New Jersey.Courtesy of Dr. Julianne Childs

Julianne Childs is an oncologist director at HOPE Community Cancer Center in Marmora New Jersey. She has managed to keep her cancer center open to patients every day so they can continue receiving life-saving cancer therapy safely amid the overwhelming and dangerous pandemic, her husband Dr. Arthur Childs said.

“She is a loving wife, mother of six and grandmother who has been unable to see her grandkids because of the fear of bringing home the disease to them,” Dr. Arthur Childs said. “She continues under great duress, stress and fear to bring hope to her patients and all she comes in contact with. She is my hero and deserves credit far and above what I can give her.”

Ashley M. Dumas, medical laboratory scientist

Medical laboratory scientist Ashley M. Dumas at the Lallie Kemp Foundation in Louisiana.Courtesy of Ashley M. Dumas

Ashley Dumas is responsible for all laboratory tests at the Lallie Kemp Foundation in Louisiana.

“For example, I run flu tests which are currently being performed to rule out COVID-19,” Dumas explained. “Currently, I am processing coronavirus samples to be sent to LabCorp for testing. Hopefully, tests can soon be validated at my hospital so we can do in-house testing.”

SkyeNora Rendon, registered nurse

Registered nurse SkyeNora Rendon in the Monterey Bay area.Courtesy of SkyeNora Rendon

SkyeNora Rendon has been a nurse for over 35 years. And her courage goes way back to almost 31 years ago during an earthquake in California, said her husband James Rendon.

“She was the nursing supervisor during our 1989 earthquake when the administrators fled the hospital and she and her colleagues stayed on,” James Rendon explained to Know Your Value.

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Recently, she’s cared for two COVID-19 patients in the Monterey Bay area. She’s now considering offering her services in New York City, a coronavirus hotspot. While the pandemic hasn't quite hit their area as hard as other parts of the country, he said they are debating if SkyeNora will be needed more in their area in the coming weeks.

“It is debatable if our local hospitals are adequately prepared for what is coming,” James Rendon explained.

Polly Peace, executive director of the Country Children’s Center

Executive director of the Country Children's Center Polly Peace posing in between her colleagues in Westchester County, New York.Courtesy of Polly Peace

Now that schools are closed due to the pandemic, childcare workers like Peace are still providing essential services for families. However, since most schools are not equipped for this sudden transition, she said the responsibility fell upon the childcare community to work with the schools to provide the needed care.

“I am so impressed by the bravery and commitment of our staff,” Peace said. “I know there are many other centers serving this crucial need, as well. I just want to make sure that childcare gets proper recognition for the essential role it is playing now, and actually every day, in preserving our economy and nurturing America's children.”

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The Country Children’s Center in Westchester County, New York is working with four school districts, as well as caring for their own enrolled children up to the age of 5.

“At the onset, I was really unsure if any of our staff would agree to work under these new conditions,” Peace said. “However, to my amazement, many have willingly come forward and stepped up.”

Bria White, community activist

Community activist Bria White wearing a mask she made with her sewing machine.Courtesy of Bria White

When White heard about the shortage of all protective masks, she decided to make her own and distribute them to people who need them. She hopes to fill the gap until the government starts a flowing supply chain of masks, or until she runs out of supplies.

“Like a shoemaker's elf, each night and all weekend I cut and sewed masks,” White explained. “I even recruited my partner to help. He learned to cut using a pattern. We sewed and sewed. We became a well-oiled mask producing machine ... I am not accepting payments. Just prayers and well wishes. Being able to supply these masks helps me to fight off the feeling of helplessness. It also brings hope to my community.”

Jill Harper, certified registered nurse anesthetist

Jill Harper, certified registered nurse anesthetist at the Lewis Gale Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia.Courtesy of Jill Harper

Harper is a nurse anesthetist at Valley Anesthesia at the Lewis Gale Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia.

“(She’s) courageously fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines ... It is my understanding that anesthesiologists have one of the more dangerous roles being so upfront and close to patients,” Jill’s sister-in-law Kim said.

Cindy Erickson, registered nurse in the ICU

Registered nurse in the ICU Cindy Erickson suited up at Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview, Illinois.Courtesy of Cindy Erickson

Erickson’s husband Bill O’Neil describes her as his “hero” as she’s on the front lines of the ICU at Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview, Illinois.

Kwesi Ablordeppey, executive board member

Kwesi Ablordeppey, executive board member at Service Employees International Union, Local 888 in Massachusetts.Courtesy of Kwesi Ablordeppey

Kwesi Ablordeppey is an executive board member at Service Employees International Union, Local 888 where he said takes care of veterans at Holyoke Soldiers Home in Braintree, Massachusetts. “I love what I do,” said Ablordeppey.