Exclusive interview with a COVID-19 hero

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Gene Barnes

April 25, 2020 Barnes snaps a selfie for Cub contributor, Cade Hovey grade 10.

My Interview with Registered Nurse, Gene Barnes

COVID-19 is nothing short of a historic phenomenon. All aspects of life were affected and tampered with because of this pandemic. However, those on the front lines fighting to save lives are severely affected. Health care workers have been working nonstop for the greater good, like my Dad’s close friend, Gene Barnes. Gene is a Nurse Anesthetist at Foxchase Cancer Center and Jeanes Hospital in Philadelphia. For the past six weeks, he has been treating patients with the Coronavirus.

I called Gene and asked him a few questions of his point of view on the forefront of the virus.

 

He told me that going into work, he must cover himself head to toe in protective gear and wear the N-95 mask. This mask filters 95% of molecules while breathing to protect against the toxic hospital air, saving the lives of nurses and doctors. Gene has had his mask for two weeks due to the lack of equipment, increasing his risk to contract COVID-19. The virus can stay on objects for several days.

But he expressed that he does not feel worried about contracting it as working nonstop distracts from the true danger of the coronavirus. Gene felt the only time he was scared of contracting was six weeks ago, when he successfully intubated the first COVID patient in Philadelphia. “I intubated a sick woman, and the next day my manager called telling me she was positive,” Gene told me. It wasn’t until five days later that his fear decreased. Ever since then, he has been relentless and fearless in his act to aid the cause. 

As a Nurse Anesthetist, he usually works on elective surgeries, but with the dramatic increase in  COVID patients, his support is needed in the intensive care unit. Gene described the ICU as a war-zone. Doctors and nurses rush to save lives, with no break, having to repeatedly change their protective gear between each patient, and he described the significant physical and mental toll it takes on these people. He portrayed how every worker may be riddled with fear going into work, but they all know this is what the job entails and what they signed up for. The reward for fighting the cause is the benefit to our future as a country.

When I asked Gene if he was worried about bringing the disease home and spreading it to family and friends he stated, “Almost every worker I know comes home, strips in the garage, immediately cleans their clothes, takes a long shower and isolates for a few hours away from their family.” It sounds harsh, but it is what they must do as part of their job. He does not believe him and his co-workers are heroes, but he knows they are working hard at the job they love.

I then asked Gene what his view was in regards to having a “normal” summer. “Hard to tell,” he said. His main reason for not being able to provide a definitive answer is the need for new forms of testing. He believes that the availability of testing will determine when and where places will reopen again. Despite the fact Gene believes they shouldn’t hastily reopen businesses and events, it is not up to him. Our government will determine whether or not we are ready to get back into daily life, and hopefully give heroes like Gene Barnes time to spend on what they enjoy doing.

Before I concluded my interview, he said, “I love working in this hard time. Assisting the affected is why we all chose this form of work. I wouldn’t trade it for the world” which I think are words coming from a true hero.

Thank you to all of our medical workers during this time.

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