Liza Berger headshot
Liza Berger

I hate this pandemic. 

Not only does it sicken and kill people, it does so in insidious ways. Like hitching a ride on unsuspecting people and then jumping onto those with compromised immune systems and wreaking havoc. 

Because of that little piece of viral intelligence — the asymptomatic aspect — it has inflicted social stress on all of us. Who do we see? With whom can we socialize? We must subject everyone to a battery of convoluted questioning: Where have you been, and with whom? Walking down the street, we are committing an act we wouldn’t teach a third-grader: When someone is approaching, go the other way. 

More seriously, we have to tell loved ones, “I’m sorry, but I can’t see you and spend time with you.” This virus has inflicted tremendous heartache on residents and families.   

It has been said before, but it bears repeating: Nursing home and other frontline healthcare workers are the ones most at the mercy of this awful virus. In many cases, they are putting the residents and their jobs first, before themselves, before their families.

Even in their off hours, they are still working. They have to turn down invitations and celebrations. They, most of all, have to make those agonizing social choices: Do I opt to not go to a gathering or a friend’s house because, ultimately, it will put my residents at risk?

Which is why Lost on the Frontline is such a powerful tribute. The project, a joint effort between Kaiser Health News and The Guardian, gives the proverbial name to a face. It  offers personal stories of the 586 (as of early this week) frontline healthcare workers who have died from COVID-19. It documents nursing home and hospital workers, firefighters, police officers and others who have given their lives to the pandemic. 

In the photo gallery of the project, you’ll meet people like Cassondra Grant Diaz, a nursing home bookkeeper whom loved ones described as an “old soul.” And Leola Grady, a recreational aide who was “a calming presence” for residents. And Maurice Dotson, a certified nursing aide. His sister knew something was amiss when he didn’t provide his daily Facebook update. 

It is painful and sad to read these stories, but it is also a touching memorial to those who lived lives of service.

Liza Berger is Senior Editor at McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.