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Essential workers’ Brief But Spectacular takes on what they’re grateful for this year

During the last eight months, our Brief But Spectacular team has profiled numerous brave voices whose work has been deemed essential and whose lives have been transformed by the pandemic. We reconnected with them this past week to ask how they’re doing and hear what they’ve learned.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Now, throughout the pandemic, our Brief But Spectacular segments have introduced us to a number of wonderful and inspiring people, many on the front lines fighting this virus.

    Tonight, we return to them, as they share with us what they're especially grateful for this year.

  • Choumika Simonis:

    I am an internal medicine resident at a hospital in New York City.

  • Mike Smith:

    I'm the co-founder of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. And I'm working these days on making masks.

  • Ron Drew:

    We are over-the-road truck drivers.

  • Chante Drew:

    And we deliver groceries to all our 48 states.

  • Karen Kinsell:

    I work in Fort Gaines, Georgia, Clay County. And I was the only doctor here for 15 years.

  • Savoya Taylor:

    I'm the only female troubleshooter that Con Ed ever had in a 100-year history.

  • Tara Rynders:

    I am a nurse, an artist, a dancer.

    Over the last eight months. I have received a lot of hope from the humanity that I experience on a daily basis.

  • Choumika Simonis:

    My mother is a certified nurse's assistant at a veterans home in Queens. Her resilience and grit, I have tried to channel that myself.

  • Mike Smith:

    It's been a really isolating year.

    And I must say, I'm thankful for Zoom. It's been a great opportunity to reach out to people by Zoom and other ways that I haven't seen in years. I really feel my own mortality these days. And that can be a sad thing, but it can also be a life-affirming thing.

    You never know how much time you have, and you need to use every minute of it. And this year has been a reminder of that over and over and over.

  • Karlin Chan:

    In August, I started the Chinatown Mural Project. I'm using art for recovery. If everybody does their own little part, you know, we have a chance to survive here.

    BRIDGET RHODES, 911 Dispatcher: When people call 911, they don't often consider that we are a human on the other end of the lines. No matter if it's just a noise complaint or somebody is having a heart attack, like, we care.

    DR. DIANE MEIER, Geriatrician and Palliative Care Specialist: Under the circumstances of the pandemic, the demand for palliative care skills and abilities has risen exponentially.

    What gives me hope is the recognition of the essentials in life. And the essentials are human connection.

  • Ron Drew:

    I'd like to be hopeful and thankful that, at this time of year, that we can put our differences aside and put the gauntlets down and love each other and take care of each other and help each other get through.

  • Karen Kinsell:

    The pandemic, as horrific as it is. It also has improved health care in some ways. We are doing much, much more virtual work. And those changes are going to last forever.

  • Gertrude Kabwazi:

    Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. I'm truly, truly grateful for the people that continue to pour their hearts and support the work that we do.

    Although the world remain closed, their hearts remain open.

  • Katherine Zwick:

    Two of the bigger challenges for me personally this year were contracting COVID-19, and then being evacuated due to the California wildfires where I live.

    You know, when we evacuated, it was like, just leave. And it became clear, like, how few things that I own are actually important to me. Nothing else really mattered except for my relationships.

  • Betty Ferrell:

    I'm so incredibly grateful for all of my colleagues, for every nurse, physician, social worker, chaplain, nursing assistant.

    The nurse will call the family and say, we think it's going to be soon. You know, we're so sorry, but your father's dying. And the daughter will say, oh, my dad, he loved to read Scripture. He loved to — he loved music, or I always thought I would be there to hold his hand.

    And it makes me so tearful, but nurses are saying, oh, I will go be the daughter. There's thousands of stories around this country of nurses that went back in that room, not just as a nurse, but as a family member.

  • Savoya Taylor:

    The most challenging part of the last eight months for me is definitely just getting used to these masks and just trying to keep from contracting this disease and bringing it home.

    I'm trying to protect my son, my 13-year-old son now. He was diagnosed last year with Hodgkin's lymphoma. He is in remission right now. So, I want to keep him there.

    Sometimes, I do get down, and I just — like, enough is enough. But I just tell myself, you know what? I got my children looking at me and depending on me. And I can't give up.

    My name is Savoya Taylor.

  • Katherine Zwick:

    My name is Kat Zwick.

  • Gertrude Kabwazi:

    My name is Gertrude Kabwazi.

  • Karen Kinsell:

    My name is Dr. Karen Kinsell.

  • Ron Drew:

    I'm Ron Drew.

  • Chante Drew:

    And I'm Chante Drew.

  • BRIDGET RHODES:

    My name is Bridget Rhodes.

  • Karlin Chan:

    Karlin Chan.

  • Tara Rynders:

    Tara Rynders.

  • Choumika Simonis:

    Choumika Simonis.

  • Mike Smith:

    I'm Mike Smith.

  • DR. DIANE MEIER:

    My name is Diane Meier, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on seeing patients as people.

  • Betty Ferrell:

    On the compassionate care provided by nurses during COVID.

  • Gertrude Kabwazi:

    On resilience.

  • Katherine Zwick:

    On surviving COVID.

  • Savoya Taylor:

    On courage.

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