Tuesday night, our ICU changed forever.

It’s taken me until this morning to gather my thoughts on this senselessness tragedy, this unfair death of a beloved nurse coworker and friend. And this morning, it’s hard to accept the sun will keep rising on a world without her in it. In a year that’s been dark for most of us, it has become a much, much darker place.

The biggest question that comes to mind is, why? Why her? Why now? She was nearly my age, far too young to meet the fate we all must eventually know.

Why her family? How much anguish can one family handle? How can a parent ever learn to cope with losing a child? How can a sibling? They say time heals all wounds, and perhaps time does dull the sting of pain, but that gaping hole in one’s heart never closes, does it?

She’s left her mark on our ICU family, and will never be forgotten. Her infectious laughter, brilliant smile, and sparkling eyes, she was beautiful both inside and out. I admired her affinity for taking care of the more difficult patients that others didn’t get along with. She had the special way of putting gruff patients in their place, and of befriending the somewhat manic; and by the end of her shift, she was their best friend. I loved that about her.

We shared taking care of COVIDs. We spent half a shift tallying up how many COVIDs we’d cared for this year; a special bonding moment for us to commiserate.

She always showed up a little bit late, I’m talking 07:05 to 07:10, and a bit frazzled, but nonetheless ready to take on the day. Whenever I saw we were working together, I knew it was going to be a great shift no matter what came rolling through those ICU doors.

Always particular about her food, she’d keep her breakfast half un-eaten, grazing it all morning, until lunch. The same was true for lunch. I eventually started getting what she ate for breakfast, and I dubbed it “the Rachel”–hash, spinach, and an egg topped with cheese.

We’d chat about our dogs, and I’d ask her about getting her nose pierced–something I’d been wanting to do since April–but what I’ll miss most is gossiping about our favorite docs we worked with. At times, our jests echoed of Brandy and Monica’s 1998 hit “The Boy is Mine”, but in the end we shared our affinities, and through humor, always made the shift more interesting.

One of the more recent shifts that stands out to me was the morning she hauled into the unit, late, and having lost her phone that morning while walking her dog, Shimmer. She was all in a tizzy! We tried so hard to use our phones to try and locate hers using GPS and SnapChat. Needless to say, it didn’t work. She stepped off the unit and while she was gone, her boyfriend–who’d found it–brought the phone in. We placed it at the computer she’d been using and when she returned, we told her it was there the whole time. We laughed a lot that morning.

As I sit here typing about all the things I’m going to miss about her, I vacillate between smiling, laughing, and crying. And if she were here, I suspect she’d give me a warm hug, then tell me to quit crying. It’s so hard to know we’ll never laugh together like that again. It’s devastating to know she’ll never again grace our unit with her bright eyes, sassy attitude, and caring disposition. She was such a hard worker, and so devoted to her patients. She was an essential member of our close-knit ICU family, a unit that is now horribly grieving. We’ve been through so much this year, I don’t know what I’d do without my ICU family.

Rachel, you were one in a million, and I feel so lucky to have known and worked with you. Please be at peace, wherever you are. And I think I’m finally going to get that nose piercing I’ve been talking to you about since April, in honor of you.

You may not be with us, but you will never be forgotten. My COVID buddy, I’ll be thinking of you each time I don my PPE to enter one of those rooms. It’s with somber gratitude I’m glad you not longer have to. And each time our favorite docs grace the unit, I’m sure you’ll be snickering at me from somewhere, perhaps I’ll still hear your laughter.

Girl, you’ve left a piece of yourself within me–and each of us–that will be carried forever, and I thank you from the bottom of my broken heart.


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