BOSTON/WILMINGTON – Today, the country and the world for that matter, has been in complete chaos. The COVID-19 epidemic has forced the United States to shut down. Most of the adult population in America have been told to stop working (or been laid off), return home and practice social distancing along with everyone else.

But then there's the essential workers, who have sacrificed their own health and time with their loved ones, so they can take care of people who have been affected by the virus in one way or another. Certainly, the nurses, doctors and healthcare workers are the true heroes during this time.

Here in Wilmington, there's a long list of healthcare workers who are out there saving lives. The Town Crier Sports Department wanted to feature some former athletes, who are now on the frontline. Among that group includes Hayley Robarge, a 2011 WHS Graduate, who in high school played field hockey and lacrosse, before continuing to play lacrosse during her four years at the University of Rhode Island.

Presently, Robarge is a Registered Nurse at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, working in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. She has been employed there for two years and currently working almost around the clock daily, trying to keep people alive and help them recuperate. She was asked to explain what it's been like at the hospital over these last few weeks.

"Since the pandemic has broken out, my unit has transitioned to a COVID-ICU where we have been caring for critically ill patients on ventilators and multiple IV medications,” she said. “I have also been working extra shifts in the overflow COVID-ICU where we have started a 'team nursing' model which includes ICU trained nurses working with nurses from the medical floors caring for multiple COVID-ICU patients together for the duration of their shift.

“There are just so many of these patients requiring ventilation and intensive care, the hospital has had to continuously expand ICU capacity to other units and find new ways to deploy staff to safely care for them. There seems to be a new change every day if not every hour.”

Before the pandemic broke out, Robarge said that she really enjoyed her job, working in the ICU and taking care of her daily patients. But what she is going through now as a nurse is not easy, physically and especially mentally, to say the least.

“This pandemic has caused a total shift in my career as well as every medical professional I work with day-to-day,” she said. “I love caring for patients in the ICU and the busy work flow has always motivated me. The difference now is the added stress of worrying if I may become infected at work or one of my co-workers or even bringing the virus home and making a loved one sick.

“You can’t go into a patients room without these worries being on your mind and it causes a notable constant tension at work that has rarely been there before.

“It’s scary to see patients from every walk of life - young, old, healthy or having previous conditions - getting sick from this virus. You can almost identify a friend or loved one or co-worker in every patient you care for which is what makes it feel more personal in a way.”

Much like athletics, you are only as good as the people around you, and Robarge is the first to admit that there's no way she could make it through each day without her Beth Israel teammates.

“I can’t say enough about the support and strength my co-workers are providing one another during this time,” she said. “Everyone is working so hard every day and under so much stress but we know we are all in this together. We are constantly checking in on each other whether it’s during our shift or on our days off and providing support whether it’s needed or not. Our managers, educators, nurse specialists and upper management have been working just as long hours and putting in just as much effort as those involved in patient care to make sure we have what we need, we feel safe, and that we feel supported.”

While Robarge's Hospital Family has been incredible, she hasn't seen her own family at all. She's one of four children – all athletes at WHS – with Nick, Caroline and Christian, while she has an enormous extended family with aunts, uncles and cousins. She hasn't been able to physically see any of the family members, let alone share with them stories about saving people's lives.

“This pandemic has changed the lives of so many and I am grateful that I am able to go to work everyday unlike so many others,” she said. “The biggest change for me would be not being able to see my family. I come from a big family that is very close who usually see each other all the time.

“Now, because I am at risk of transmitting the virus from taking care of these patients, I haven’t been able to see my parents, siblings, grandparents or extended family which has been hard.

“Everyone has been extremely supportive and have been staying at home. This has allowed me to not have to worry too much about them which gives me the time to focus on my patients in the hospital.”

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