On front lines of COVID-19 battle, nurses also find themselves fighting stigma

Published: May. 14, 2020 at 10:16 AM HST|Updated: May. 14, 2020 at 10:19 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - It’s been nearly two weeks since Maui’s main hospital admitted its last coronavirus patient, but for nurses on the front lines the emotional and even physical scars of the outbreak linger.

"If I didn’t wear this Band-aid, my nose would just be eaten up,” said registered nurse Amy Welch, referring to the damage left behind by wearing a mask during her shift.

“That’s from repeatedly wearing it 12 hours a day, three days in a row.”

It’s been more than a month since a cluster of cases broke out at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

Nurses say the pressure has been intense.

"You have everyone depending on you, making sure that we’re taking care of the patients, we’re healing the patients. It’s a lot of pressure, but a lot of criticism at the same time,” said registered nurse Lovelee Tagudin.

Yes, criticism.

Nurses say they’ve felt shunned in some stores and eateries.

“There’s free food or a discount if you show your badge. I don’t show because … you kind of get stoned,” said registered nurse Novy Haban.

“People who try to get in to certain places with their badges ... things got thrown at them,” Welch said.

They say they walk around with a misconception that they are contaminated.

They want their fellow community members to know that they wear personal protective equipment, everything is disinfected every four hours and their masks are changed daily.

After all, they don’t want to bring the virus home to their loved ones.

“For me, working on this floor, this COVID unit, it's been hard. I have kids, I have two young kids, my elderly parents live with me," Haban said.

Haban showers outside, sleeps on a couch and hasn’t touched her two small children since March.

“From afar you have to say, ‘Hi! I’m home!’ And you don’t get to hug them,” she said fighting back tears.

They want their community to know that they are very safe and they are asking for support during this critical time.

“Everything is starting to open up right now. But we don’t want to take one step forward and two steps back. We are anticipating a second wave. It’s going to happen. But we also have to adapt to the new norm," Tagudin said.

"Please, please, wear your masks,” said Haban. Welch added, “We’re here for you, be here for us.”

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