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On the Front Lines of COVID-19

May 15, 2020 07:00 AM
By: Brad Rudolph

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​You don't have to look very far among the employees of PennDOT District 6 to find someone related to a healthcare worker — nieces and nephews, children and even spouses who are on the front lines combatting COVID-19. It is these brave men and women who are truly heroes in this time of uncertainty.

For Mike Lee who works in project delivery for District 6, the heroes are both his wife Christine, a registered nurse at Tower Health Reading Hospital, and his son Matthew, an EMT for Western Berks Ambulance Association.

Mike says that over the last several weeks, Christine has been caring for many hospitalized patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, as well as many patients who are still waiting to get their test results. Similarly, Matthew has been transporting a combination of positive COVID patients and some awaiting confirmation of the virus. A junior at Alvernia University, Mike earned his National Certification as an EMT last summer and is pursuing a career as a physician's assistant.

"Christine has a specific routine once she arrives home to help keep us safe from the exposure she endured," Mike said. "She's concerned, but not scared, regarding her own health, her co-workers' health, and the health of her patients. She continues to serve the shifts she is assigned."

Besides dealing with the obvious implications of exposure to the coronavirus, healthcare workers in Pennsylvania and around the United States are dealing with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). Dennis Sterling, construction cost manager for District 6 says his wife, Kim has been helping with that by sewing masks and donating them to the hospitals where both of their children and son-in-law work as doctors treating COVID patients.

"If there is a message, those who listen to Doctor Levine, Governor Wolf, and President Trump by staying inside, social distancing, and wearing a mask – you are helping tremendously whoever you are," Dennis said.

PennDOT employee Pinakin Chokshi and his son, a doctor in Florida.
"We should all appreciate healthcare workers who are fighting this pandemic," said Pinakin Chokshi, whose son Ravi is an OB/GYN in Florida. One weekend per month Ravi works with COVID-19 and ICU patients and Pinakin shares that they, too, are lacking PPE and ventilators. "It's really scary, but it's part of his job. He is taking extreme care to avoid infections."

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there have been nearly 2,000 COVID-related deaths in Pennsylvania as of late April. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are reporting more than 50,000 deaths in the United States and more than 200,000 globally.

Raymundo Pascual, who works in District 6 construction unit recently lost his nephew Arvin, a nurse caring for COVID patients in Cabanatuan City, Philippines, after contracting the disease. His story made headlines as he was the first Filipino nurse to die from the virus.

"He died alone. No funeral, no viewing. Only his immediate family was there when he was buried," Raymundo explained. "The pictures my family sent to me are so much to bear, especially the picture of my brother grieving for his lost son."

To reiterate Dennis Sterling's message, it is extremely important Pennsylvanians and Americans to follow the quarantine guidelines issued by Governor Wolf so we can mitigate COVID-19's impact. To be a family member of someone on the front lines of COVID can be scary, which is why we all must do our part to help flatten this curve.

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