UPTOWN — As a doctor at Weiss Memorial Hospital, Anwar Jebran knows exactly what healthcare workers endure in the battle against coronavirus.
A member of the intensive care unit team, Jebran saw his unit double its capacity in an effort to treat more COVID-19 patients. Weiss, a community hospital that is underfunded by the state, is housing coronavirus patients on seven of its eight floors.
“April and early May were pretty overwhelming,” said Jebran, who lives in Rogers Park. “Now, the hospital is adapting. It’s getting more controlled now.”
Jebran was talking about the plight of healthcare workers during the pandemic with his friend, Sara Amiri, who works for Uber in its downtown offices. Amiri’s sister, a nurse, is quarantining herself away from her family while working to combat the virus.
Jebran and Amiri wanted to find a way to highlight the stories of healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic, so they started the Healthcare Heroes Project, a campaign to highlight the stories and struggles of health professionals working during the outbreak.
“It’s to understand the sacrifices they make everyday,” she said. “We want to make sure we really celebrate these heroes.”
Though the project is Chicago-based, the website highlights workers from all throughout the world, including in hard-hit Italy, Romania and Morocco.
Healthcare workers can either submit their story to the project team, or request an interview. Amiri and Jebran are working with editors to conduct the interviews and help formulate the personal stories for the web.
In one story, a doctor in Milwaukee talks about the hopelessness he feels in watching COVID-19 patients succumb to the disease and the difficulty in helping some patients who have gathered misinformation about the pandemic.
“As emotionally draining as this ordeal has been, going into the hospital and having to do my job every day has rarely been the difficult part,” Charles Penn wrote in his essay. “It has been more difficult not being able to see my family for the past 2 months, for fear of accidentally exposing them to the virus.”
Photos accompanying the stories depict the healthcare workers in comic book-style colors, meant to signify their status as every day heroes, Jebran said.
“It’s really heartwarming to see people share a glimpse into their life,” he said. “They are superheroes in their own way.”
Sharing these stories might help the public understand the severity of the outbreak, and help people make decisions with medical professionals in mind. Healthcare Heroes Project also wants to get the attention of decision makers to help “improve the healthcare infrastructure,” Amiri said.
But the project also wants to help medical professionals in a more direct way. The group is planning to partner with psychologists and even yoga instructors to help healthcare workers deal with the stress in productive ways, Amiri said.
“A lot of workers are suffering from stress,” she said. “We want to help.”
For more information on the Healthcare Heroes Project, including how to submit a story, click here.
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