We have been invaded by an army of viruses so small they cannot be seen with the naked eye, yet they’re the most difficult enemy we’ve ever tried to defeat. Unlike all wars before it, this one isn’t fought with guns and bombs. But like all other wars, doctor, nurses, medical professionals and support staff are on the front lines.

I’ve read about and written about ordinary nurses who had been thrust into unimaginably traumatic situations in our nation’s wars. Like their predecessors, nurses and doctors fighting COVID-19 virus had virtually no time to prepare and their resources were so limited that even if they had more time, it wouldn’t have made much difference.

Before December 7, 1941, Army and Navy nurses on Hawaii had been living in a tropical paradise with few medical cases of real concern. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, suddenly their paradise was turned into a horror show of broken bodies, burned sickening flesh and torn limbs that could never have been imagined in a nursing class. On Bataan, nurses not only had to treat their wounded patients who lay uncovered in open jungle wards that stretched for miles. Short on medicine and supplies, exhausted nurses, themselves suffering from malaria, beriberi, dengue fever and dysentery, tended the sick and injured while living on rationed food and little sleep.

Those nurses, just like the ones fighting the COVID-19 virus, were scared to death, but they pushed through their fears and did their jobs because they knew that they were the only ones who could.

Today’s nurses and doctors are praised and told how special they are and how much they are appreciated. Most of them are too exhausted to even think about that. When this is over, there will be residual trauma as the horrors are relived in their minds. I hope that when they need help from us, we will be there for them, to comfort them, to care for them and reassure them that their work to contain the virus saved hundreds of thousands of lives more than they lost.

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