COVID-19 frontline worker spotlight: Dr. Shen

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Every year, The Classic publishes the Introducing Project for the graduating class. Per tradition, each post features a member of the Class of 2020, offering a more in-depth look into the seniors’ defining moments and sentiments. With the coronavirus pandemic bringing an abrupt end to the school year and cancelling events such as prom and graduation, the Townsend Harris community has found creative ways to maintain bonds while social distancing. In addition this year’s seniors The Classic has decided to include a series of profiles on the frontline workers of our school community (parents, neighbors, alumni, friends of the school) in this year’s Introducing. Their heroic work deserves memorializing as we reflect our time during the pandemic in the years to come.

Since the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline workers have been recognized for their hard work and bravery, as they put themselves in danger daily to serve community members across the nation.

Junior Hans Li’s mother Dr. Shen is among the many members of the Townsend Harris community who have experience with loved ones fighting at the front lines. His mother works as a nurse practitioner in the neonatal unit, dealing with newborn children. Her daily responsibilities consist of providing health maintenance, performing physical examinations, conducting health assessment interviews and medical screening examinations. However, with the COVID-19 outbreak, her daily responsibilities come with an increased threat. Dr. Shen explained, “I am at higher risk now for the virus as many babies’ mothers are positive, and now one baby as well is positive for COVID-19.”

Throughout her time working with COVID-19 patients, she expresses her fears regarding the spread of the virus through asymptomatic carriers. “I have experience working with these COVID patients and I found that some of the positive patients have the symptoms of this virus while some don’t,” Dr. Shen said. 

Dr. Shen also emphasized her concerns with the underequipped conditions of the hospital she works at, specifically with face masks. “I have to sign out masks and even clean and re-use them… I feel very unsafe and am worried that I might contract the virus and spread it to my family,” she explained. She also notes the lack of testing amongst healthcare members stating, “Health care workers should be tested because they are the most susceptible to it and they are the group with the highest risk. Therefore, they may be carriers and may have spread it massively without knowing.”

Hans voiced similar concerns. He said, “Knowing that my mother goes to work in an atmosphere where the risk of contracting the COVID-19 is extra high causes me to worry about her health as well as the health of me, my sister, and my dad as she has a high risk of getting the virus.”

Dr. Shen recalled a few of her recent experiences at the hospital. “I have witnessed a morgue truck where dead bodies are stacked in. I have witnessed many sick hospital staff and have also found out that a few workers have died while others have ended up on the ventilator,” she recounted.

To protect herself along with her family members, she mentioned, “I always wear a mask no matter what the case is.” She advises everyone at home to take similar precautions and continue to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Amid the anxieties and paranoia that has spiked due to news of the outbreak, she states most importantly, “don’t over stress yourself.”

With the sacrifices our frontline workers have made to keep us safe, we are all more grateful than ever for the heroes that continue to fight for our community. Hans added, “I applaud her bravery and commitment to her job and her willingness to always help others even in times like this.”

Art by Amanda Renzi, Editor-in-Chief.