I am a retired RN. I have worked in hospitals and ICUs with infected patients. Until yesterday, I thought I understood how difficult it was to work in a hospital under pandemic conditions. I had no idea.

Yesterday, as a warden at one of our polling places, I was gloved and working behind an N95 mask for 15 hours. Removing the mask only to eat or drink and the gloves to wash my hands and put new gloves on made for a long and tiring day. It was stifling, uncomfortable and isolating, and that was without the gown and face shield, which is always hot and awkward.

As a nurse, I worked masked, gloved and gowned regularly, but it was never behind an N95 mask, which is much thicker, stinks and is hot and heavy on your face. It was never meant for an entire 12- to 14-hour shift, for days at a time.

When you choose a profession in healthcare, you often sign on for grueling work. It is not easy work, but you know it going in. Working under the burden of restrictive, uncomfortable and relentlessly oppressive personal protective equipment (PPE), caring for so many exceptionally sick and dying people every day is truly above and beyond the expected call of duty.

It is hard to overstate the debt of gratitude that is owed to these healthcare professionals who are working harder than they ever imagined they would, every day, day in and day out, to keep their fellow man alive. This must be recognized as an infinitely valiant effort.

Susan M. Zavala

Wheelhouse Circle

East Falmouth

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