A Local Hero Shares Her Story

St. Charles resident and nurse talks to us about her job during the Covid-19 pandemic

Serena Thakkar, Features Editor

What defines a superhero? Does it mean having immense strength like the Hulk, is it having super-speed like Flash, or is it having healing powers as extraordinary as Deadpool? An example of real-life superheroes are nurses, who have the exceptional strength of resilience to constantly bounce back after a loss, keeping their heads held high and continuing to save the day. Just like Flash, they are always quick on their feet, tending to numerous amounts of patients while using their remarkable healing powers to heal patients. Nurses are like superheroes, constantly in battle, approaching each challenge as a mountain they are ready to conquer, never looking back until they have reached the top. After learning about COVID-19 through a nurse’s perspective, one will realize this and also understand the true dedication and honor that comes with the role. 

Karen Pieron, a St. Charles resident, is a Nurse Practitioner at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights and works to rehabilitate patients with disabilities through occupational and speech therapy. She explained how along with her roles at work, tasks before starting her shift and after coming home have significantly altered due to COVID-19. Before beginning her shift, Pieron takes her temperature, and then she and her partner see follow-up patients, varying from twenty to twenty-five patients a day. Additionally, Pieron described “ a typical day in the nursing home would be me getting to my facility, having my temperature taken…meeting with the lead therapist to go over any new therapy patients, [and] getting updates from the therapists about any concerns they have about any patients. I then go to the patient’s room and see them. The nursing home could have long term care patients there or short term rehab patients there, [meaning they] just come for rehab and then go home. I see them all.” Pieron mentioned that none of her nursing home patients have COVID-19 currently: however, those that did were transferred to their sister nursing home in Aurora. 

Along with patient care, Pieron explained how her own life after work has also been affected due to the virus. She now leaves her lab coat in her car, along with her shoes in the garage, washes her hands, changes her clothes and showers right when she gets home. 

Although nurses are nearly identical to superheroes, it’s important to remember that they are humans and that they must ensure they are mentally healthy too. Pieron agreed with this, saying, “The mental health and wellbeing of healthcare practitioners is huge. I imagine it is probably not talked about at all. My friends and I do the best we can. We talk a lot…Facetime saved our life in the beginning, as well as Zoom calls…Depression and mental health are things that need to be talked about and shouldn’t be ignored.”  

The CDC also acknowledged this, and explained how dealing with an unknown pandemic can cause stress and anxiety. It’s important to know how to cope with stress in a healthy manner, “as mental health is an important part of overall health and wellbeing.” The CDC gave examples on healthy ways to deal with stress, such as exercising, meditating, and connecting with loved ones, even if it’s virtually. 

Feeling trapped in a house for days on end can take a toll on one’s mental health. However, working constantly to save previous lives also puts people’s mental health at risk.

Pieron explained some of the difficulties that come with being a medical professional, but also emphasized the positives that make being a nurse worth it.

“I work in this every single day and watch how this affects people. I have watched some of my own patient’s not make it from this virus, but I also have the pleasure to help people walk out of the hospital every single day after they have battled COVID -19 or some other disease that has physically and functionally depleted and deconditioned their body. For that I am proud to call myself a Nurse Practitioner but even prouder a Nurse.”