Marc Querol, a TEAM TO END AIDS (T2) athlete and an emergency room (ER) trauma nurse from Chicago, is one of many health care professionals who have dedicated themselves to caring for others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Marc and other nurses working in hospitals around the world have displayed enormous acts of selflessness while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, but that does not mean that they have been unaffected. According to The Lancet, 72% of health care workers treating patients with COVID-19 have reported feeling distressed during the pandemic.
Above all, Marc and other nurses are humans who care, grieve and need support in the same ways that we all do. As the pandemic continues to impact our communities and the health care workers on the front lines, we can do our part by celebrating, appreciating and supporting nurses like Marc.
Last May, AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) shared the T2 athlete’s story of working as an ER trauma nurse during the pandemic. When we interviewed Marc last year, the pandemic still felt largely new and unknown. He spoke about the stress that nurses like him were facing each day at work, and the ways in which he and his colleagues were taking care of themselves while working in such an overwhelming environment.
Now, Marc is thinking about the past year and what he has learned from working on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This past year has given me a different understanding on people that I value, people that I can help with what I do,” Marc said.
Since the onset of the pandemic, we have gained a more comprehensive understanding of COVID-19 and how we can stay safe. We have also developed multiple vaccines, which are helping protect people from getting seriously sick from COVID-19 and have lowered the number of new COVID-19 cases across the country.
Marc said that even though many people, including himself, are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, it is still crucial that people follow CDC guidelines and understand exactly what getting vaccinated means.
Recently, Marc has seen an influx of young people, under the age of 40, come into the hospital he works at with severe cases of COVID-19 because they misunderstood what protection the vaccine gave them. Many of them stopped socially distancing and wearing their masks after receiving the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, not realizing that they needed both doses before they were fully vaccinated. Witnessing people get sick like this is heartbreaking for Marc and other nurses.
Like many of us, Marc has lost friends, family members, coworkers and patients to COVID-19. It has been a year filled with grief, but in the face of those devastating losses, Marc has felt more assured than ever about being an ER trauma nurse and recognizes how important his job is.
Marc also understands how important it is that he has support during these hard times.
“I have a wonderful support system,” Marc said. “I have a partner who is very supportive of me decompressing when I have to talk about certain things at work.”
In addition to finding support from his friends and family, Marc has started attending therapy, something that he feels many people are not open to discussing publicly but thinks they should. For Marc, connecting with a therapist has been another important step in creating a strong and meaningful support system this year.
Marc also runs with T2, the endurance training charity team that raises money for AFC and other HIV-related charities, which has served as another valuable part of his support network. Marc plans on participating in both the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and Berlin Marathon this year, which he is greatly looking forward to.
Marc lives with asthma, so running did not always seem like something he would be able to do. Learning how to manage his asthma and in turn becoming a successful and spirited runner has been life changing for Marc. It has proved to him that people do not have to feel defined by a diagnosis, and he is motivated to be an example of that. Now, he is part of a community of runners who not only share his passion for helping people living with HIV, but who also support him no matter what.
“I have some really good friends through T2 who still check up on me,” Marc said. “T2 is really [a] part of my family that I didn’t expect to get.”
Click here to join T2 by registering or donating for the 2021 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.