Nurses have been at the center of the COVID-19 health crisis helping those who are severely ill, coping with a shortage of personal protective equipment, and in some cases getting sick themselves. Borderzine reporter Gabe Montellano began interviewing Mario Murillo, an El Paso nurse, back in March for a story about Latinos in nursing. And then the pandemic happened. Here’s Murillo’s experience of working on the frontlines before and after he himself contracted COVID-19. This conversation originally aired on our partner public radio station KTEP.
Mario Murillo: Good afternoon my name is Mario Murillo. I’m an RN-BSN working currently at University Medical Center under the critical care area.
Gabe Montellano: Because of social distancing –Murillo agreed to record his own answers to questions about working during the pandemic. He’s 26 years old and has been a nurse for four years.
MM: We are feeling tense. We do try to prepare as much as we can but it does feel like the calm before the storm situation more than anything else.
GM: When we first talked in March patients with COVID-19 were beginning to show up at the hospital According to him, nurses at his hospital were also coping with a shortage of personal protective equipment.
MM: We have been having to reuse material in a way that in any other situation would not be appropriate. We do feel anxious. We do feel a bit nervous but it come with this job and we know and have to find a way to deal and continue working and continue providing for your patients in anxious or nervous situations.
GM: Murillo had to temporarily stop caring for patients when he tested positive for COVID-19 in late April.
MM: Having to be self-quarantined has been a roller coaster of emotions to say the least between dealing with symptoms, the illness itself has made me go through a range of emotions: Whether it be anger, guilt, sadness or anything of the sort. Like with anything else, just find a way to deal with them appropriately. It’s time really. We all are humans in the end.
GM: At home he had to take precautions to protect his parents and brother and sister from the virus. Fortunately, none of them had been infected. That meant isolating in his room as much as possible, having a designated restroom, wearing a mask.
MM: Wearing a simple surgical mask to lessen the risk of contagion and whoever is next to me or helping me has to also be wearing a surgical mask and staying six feet away. I’m also making sure any food items I get are in disposable utensils.Third I’m also not having any physical contact with my pets due to the risk of coronavirus spreading to them and from them to other people.
GM: His family has three dogs. After recovering from COVID-19 and getting retested Murillo returned to work in June. He’s now caring for patients in the ICU.
MM: There are pathogens everywhere and it’s safe to assume COVID-19 is roaming the halls of any, of every hospital in El Paso.
GM: He hopes by sharing his story, people will take all the necessary precautions to protect themselves from the virus.
MM: This thing is very much real, the threat is very much real.