To health care workers on the front lines: thank you.
As a rare disease patient who has interacted with dozens of health care workers in the last 17 years, I have always been in awe of your profession. But I want to thank you again now for your care, your compassion, your courage, and your selflessness, which we can see so clearly in this dark hour.
Like the rest of the world, I can’t take my eyes off of what’s happening amid the Covid-19 pandemic. There is something jarring about watching you covered head to toe in the protective gear that’s now in short supply. Underneath those stifling masks, gloves, and gowns, you are serving your community amid chaos that has lasted for weeks, and which likely won’t abate any time soon.
I’m deeply grateful for what you are doing, and what you have always done to help me and so many others.
Health care workers have guided me through the ups and downs of nearly two decades spent in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and emergency rooms. During my senior year of high school in 2003, I was involved in a serious car accident. An ambulance rushed me to the hospital. I was delirious from the pain and afraid that I had suffered serious injuries.
Those who cared for me that night showed unfailing kindness, from the X-ray technician who gently turned me on my side when I struggled to move due to the pain in my ribs to the nurses who updated my parents every hour, fielding their questions as I slept. They reassured me that I would make a full recovery.
Although I recovered from those injuries, routine blood tests done when I entered the hospital that night detected a worrisome abnormality — the amount of creatine kinase in my blood, which should have been in the low hundreds, was in the tens of thousands, suggesting that my muscles were breaking down at an alarming rate. Ten months later, just shy of my 18th birthday, I was diagnosed with an adult-onset, degenerative muscle disease called limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.
I didn’t yet have symptoms, but I was crushed. I was just about to start my freshman year of college. Now I was struggling to accept that I had a disease that would eventually rob me of my physical strength. But my pediatric neurologist patiently reassured me that I would live a full life, and helped me focus on what I would still be able to do.
Four years later, my legs started to burn after a short run — and from there, my condition changed quickly. Within a year, I could no longer run or climb stairs without help. Then I started falling. The depression I experienced felt worse than the physical symptoms. One night, I ended up in the emergency room, afraid I was having a heart attack. The attending doctor determined it was a panic attack. Before discharging me, he put a hand on my shoulder and encouraged me to seek out therapy. I did, and doing so helped me through a dark time.
Over the next few years, I still had medical appointments nearly every week. Many days, I showed up frustrated and lacking hope. At every step, health care workers provided support and encouragement. The front desk staff greeted me by name. A nurse brought me an extra pillow when it was difficult for me to sit on the examination table. A neurologist listened as I rattled off all the reasons my disease would prevent me from reaching my goals — and then adamantly told me they were still possible.
Health care workers have made a massive difference in my life. Many of you who have cared for me over the years are now tirelessly caring for the many patients who have fallen ill with Covid-19. Some of you will fall ill yourselves.
You have proven, even under these extreme circumstances, that you will show up day after day to care for patients, even when you are exhausted, even when it poses a personal risk. I pray for your well-being constantly. I know appreciation from a distance doesn’t magically produce the supplies you desperately need right now. But I hope you know how grateful we are for you.
We are forever in your debt. Like you are always here for us, we will always be here for you, long after this is over.
Chris Anselmo is a market intelligence manager for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.