Nurses often work 12-hour shifts day-in and day-out (or night-in and night-out) caring for Covid-positive patients donned in masks and gloves. The toll the work takes on the psyche and the physical body can be grueling. News reports and social media are filled with the pictures: exhausted medical workers with bruises and marks on their faces where masks have burnished the skin from excessive but necessary use.
Suffolk County Police Officer Eileen Emiddio saw the strain the epidemic was taking on her friends who were nurses and she sought them out to ask what they needed to make their jobs just a little bit better.
“In beginning they were just getting overwhelmed,” she recalled during a phone interview with LongIsland.com. “Imagine wearing that for twelve hours?”
Emiddio’s nurse friend gave her ideas about some items that nurses can use during their shift. Sucking candy because breathing through the mask masks their mouths dry, hand and face cream to help with skin care from the gloves and masks, words of hope and encouragement.
She then enlisted the help of her fellow officers in the Suffolk County Association of Women Police, which is well-known for taking on charitable causes and hosting community events.
The organization’s annual Prom Impact Project, which outfits teens in need with dresses, tuxedos, shoes, and accessories helps differ some of the costs for a high schooler’s big day. This year’s event had to be cancelled because of Covid-19 and Emiddio said all the outfits they collected had to be boxed up for next year. The group also runs a clothing drive called Dress for Success, collecting business outfits from female police officers for women going back into the workforce who can’t afford their attire.
Along with the skin care, Emiddio, who works in the Fifth Precinct, said that they packed the care packages with trivia cards and notes of inspiration and thanks.
“We thank you for standing together on the frontline for the care our community needs,” the note read on one side.
On the other was a quote that they found by Rawsi Williams, a nurse and public speaker: To do what nobody else will do, a way that nobody else can do, in spite of all we go through; is to be a nurse.
In all, they created and personally delivered over 500 bags to local hospitals, including Stony Brook, Community Hospital, Mather, Southampton, Peconic, St. Catherines and Southside, to be distributed to the nurses on duty.
She felt that the project was also a good example for her kids who chipped in. Even her 80-year-old mother helped.
“It gave her something while under quarantine,“ she said.
Emiddio knows what it’s like to do the taxing work of a frontline worker in a national crisis. She was in the New York City Police Department during 9/11 and remembers the little things that helped the officers get through the ordeal.
“It was such a big deal working hours and hours and then these kids would come by with peanut butter sandwiches for us,” she said. “It’s the thought that really counts.”
In tough times the members of the Suffolk County Association of Women Police just felt it was important for essential workers to help each other out. Emiddio says that she took the lesson she learned from those small gestures after 9/11 and applied them to this health crisis.
“The world has changed overnight and you have to see the good that comes out of it too,” she said.