Meet Frontline Hero Larissa - Westport Moms

How long have you lived in Weston, and how old are your children? I’ve been a Weston resident for almost 9 years, living here with my husband, Anthony and two daughters. Gianna is 11 years old and Isabella is 8 years old.

What were you doing/focused on before these crazy times (i.e., pre-March 2020)? I work for Hartford Healthcare at Saint Vincents Medical Center in the surgery department as a physician assistant assisting in surgeries, and caring for our orthopedic, neurosurgery and trauma patients.  I also will offer a hand at the local orthopedic clinic, treating sport injuries, some evenings or weekends. Like most Fairfield County families we are busy with after school activities and sport games on weekends. Our girls found their favorite sports at a young age. Gianna is on a travel all girls hockey team and enjoys softball. We travel most weekends to hockey games from September through March.  Gianna was about to start the spring hockey season and was also participating in winter softball clinics. Isabella is an aspiring gymnast.  She is working hard at a pre-team level.  Everyday on our calendar, there was somewhere for us to be.

How has your day to day life changed most in the last 6-8 weeks? My day to day life has changed dramatically over the past 8 weeks.  The pandemic has caused a shift in the type of patients I now care for.  There are no more sport injuries, very few motor vehicle accidents, work related injuries or major trauma.  Walking into the hospital there are blue lines taped to the floor, delineating where to stand to ensure 6 feet of distance from each other, and we have our temperatures checked.  We are asked how we are feeling and if we have any viral symptoms.  The hospital hallways are quiet and no visitors are in the gift shop or patient rooms.  As a healthcare employee there is no such thing as social distancing when treating your patient.  We wear gowns, surgical masks at all times, and are given N95 masks with face shields to keep in our “very own” brown lunch bag taped to the wall.  We use and reuse masks and face shields until it is soiled.  Elective surgeries have been on hold, but we continue to operate for urgent situations.  Some of these patient do have the virus as well.  Over the past 8 weeks, we unfortunately had to experience death, sickness and much sadness in a short amount of time.

Your efforts are truly heroic., and we can only begin to imagine how emotionally and physically taxing working in a hospital right now must be, especially with kids at home. Can you share a story or anecdote from your experiences that have helped to remind you how important and valuable the work you are doing truly is? When this virus began to take its course here in CT, NYC was ahead of us.  I was watching the bravery of my past co-workers in NY putting up a good fight and I knew soon it would be our turn. Our ER doctors and ER nursing staff were coming together prepared for whatever came into the hospital.  We do this everyday, but something different was there that wasn’t there before in all of us.  Despite the emotional strain on each of us, the healthcare workers looked out for each other.  Simple smiles and asking, “How are you doing today?” made such a difference. The level of compassion we all display for each other has brought us peace.  My workload has continued to stay in surgical care with consults often in the ER. For us healthcare workers, the focus is on patient care, not whether or not they tested positive or negative for the virus.  Personal protective equipment is worn for all patients.  We all have families at home and are taking every precaution to keep our families safe.  It is heartbreaking for these patients.  They do not have their family there and we are comforting them.  One elderly patient came to the hospital with a hip fracture from a nursing home.  She was a high risk surgery, but the family did not want her to be in pain and wanted to proceed with the hip surgery knowing the risks. We were her family.

What have these times shown you about the Westport community?   I work evening, nights, and some day shifts, often tired and with no time to plan daily meals well.  But with our community I always had many options.  The small businesses in Westport are selling paper goods, cleaning products and preparing delicious family meals. The Famers Market is doing a great job with social distancing pickups weekly. Another example is a very good friend in town gave me a P100 mask, when our personal protective gear was low. Atelier Sew Fun has sewn masks for our staff.  We truly are that village for each other and our children.  The compassion in the community is beyond what I ever thought was possible.

Is there anything further those of us at home can do to further support you – and the medical professionals on the front lines? For the families staying home, we are forever grateful.  Please continue with the kind words; they have lifted our spirits to be able to come to work another day.  Continue to appreciate how fragile life is, stop to see the good in people, and my hope is we all have a different perspective of what is important in life when this pandemic is over.  My heart was full last week when one young girl on my daughter’s girl scout troop asked her mom if she could gather cards made by her and the troop for our front line workers.  The project is underway.

Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel? And / or do you have any advice for moms – and parents out there – that you wish you could scream from the rooftops? I do see a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. The light I see is recognizing that we now know how to slow the spread and we will be able to get back to our new normal with the guidelines in place soon.  We still have uncharted water to sail over and are unsure where it may lead us.  We are still learning about this virus, the risks it gives a person and the long term effects.  I urge everyone to be cautious, and remember that proper hand washing is the gold standard for decreasing transmission of communicable diseases.  Strive for healthy eating, especially fresh vegetables, exercise and rest.  And moms, if you are having a not so good day, please know all of us are experiencing the same and we are here for each other!

Many of us have turned to sweets, wine, and other vices to get through this challenging time. Do you have anything right now when you come home that helps you get through your days? When I come home from work I take the time to play board games with my family, go for long walks and bake sweets with my girls.  The simple slower life, has helped me see the good in these times of horror.

Finally, what is the one thing you are most excited to do when all of this ends? When this ends, I am most excited to go out for dinner in town with friends…the moms who keep me grounded when I need it.  Our children have been in school together since preschool and finding the time had become increasingly more challenging.  We used to meet up every month and I hope to restart that tradition again.

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