Joseph Rapp is Mary’s brother, an oncology nurse at a local health care provider, and not only her best friend, she says, but her “hero” through the past year, from her initial biopsy through 20 radiation treatments, going with her to as many radiation treatments as he could. Joseph also helps take care of their mother and Mary’s husband, who has Type 1 diabetes, all of whom share space together in their Glenshaw home.
Mary is honoring her brother during Nurses Week, celebrated nationally this year from May 6-12, at a time when nurses across the world find themselves working on the frontlines of a global pandemic. Headlines share stories of nurses working long hours under unprecedented conditions. Photographs show the lines left on health-care workers faces, marks left behind from long shifts wearing the required masks.
“He works tirelessly as an advocate for all his patients,” Mary says of her brother. When he worked at UPMC Hillman for years, she says all of his patients became like family to him. He has attended funerals of his patients and remained friends with their families. And, she says, through it all, he takes care of his own family, too.
“He’s working hard to keep us all safe during this pandemic,” she says.
All over the world, people are recognizing the good work of people like Joseph, with nightly salutes to essential workers in larger regions like New York City. In Pittsburgh, messages in support of health-care workers have shown up in windows and on murals. For several weeks last month, a group of Pittsburghers organized an “illumination ovation,” with the hashtag #LoveFromPGH, featuring a lit-up Downtown skyline that included a heart-shaped array of lights made from windows on the Reed Smith building.
"We wanted to create an event that everyone could participate in,” says Evelyn Castillo, one of the organizers of the #LoveFromPGH event. “It was important to us that we applaud the efforts of all the essential workers who are keeping our communities safe. … Hopefully it also conveyed our appreciation for all the hard work that is being done."
That hard work includes the care given to South Side resident Maria Mangano, whose baby was born prematurely in March and has been at the hospital ever since.
“I have a family at home to care for too, so who cares for the baby for the hours I can’t be at the hospital? It’s his amazing nurses,” Maria shares. “They’re making sure he’s comfortable, adjusting all the tubes and wires, reporting all the important details to his doctors, cooing over him, all while following protocols to keep all the NICU babies and themselves safe during a pandemic.”
During National Nurses Week, some businesses offer discounts and giveaways to nurses to show their support. (Search “National Week freebies” for multiple online sources.) Locally, a team of Pittsburghers recently launched the city’s chapter of Frontline Foods, an organization designed to feed healthcare workers while boosting local restaurants at the same time.
The Pittsburgh group has so far donated over 400 meals to various hospitals and healthcare centers, and they hope to sustain this number every week. (To donate or to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit frontlinefoods.org/pittsburgh.)
Others are showing their support in simpler ways, like a chalk mural recently drawn in honor of nurses in the Friendship Parklet behind West Penn Hospital. And a “Thank you workers” sign hung up across the street from the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
“These people are superheroes,” says Maria.