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Frontline Nurses of Covid-19 Lenox Hill • MEETH • LHGV Photography by Bruce Byers


Frontline Nurses of Covid-19 Lenox Hill • MEETH • LHGV Published by New York Professional Nurses Union 241 E 75th Street New York, NY 10021 212-988-5565 www.nypnu.org • http://facebook.com/NYPNU • IG: @nypnu A portion of the proceeds will be donated to “Covid Survivors for Change”. All photographs ©copyrighted and registered by Bruce Byers Photography No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information retrieval system, without written permission in writing from the publisher and the photographer.

Bruce Byers Photography New York, NY 10021 917-992-1453 www.brucebyers.com • IG: @Brucebyers

ISBN: 978-0-578-75622-6 Printed by Digital World Solutions, Inc. www.dwsny.com Book design by Rtwerk www.rtwerk.net


The Nurses of NYPNU During the 2020 Pandemic First, there were two to three patients testing positive for COVID-19 in the hospital. Then there were five. Then ten. Within weeks, the hospital was inundated with COVID patients. Walls were taken down; new ICU and medical/surgical units opened overnight. The Emergency Room took over almost the entire ground floor. Elective surgeries were canceled. Loved ones dropped off their sick family members at the door. Visiting hours were suspended. The census of COVID-19 patients methodically climbed by 15 percent each day. Every day, every shift was hard. The only thing we could count on was the following shift being harder. No one can really mentally prepare for a once-in-a-century health crisis, let alone to serve on the frontline at the epicenter of a global pandemic. Nurses changed units and shifts. Many sent their children away or quarantined themselves from their families to mitigate the risk of exposure. The physical exhaustion, grief, and emotional trauma set in quickly and didn’t let up for over three months. Many nurses themselves got sick. Some were admitted as patients. We were very lucky that no nurses from Lenox Hill, MEETH, or LHGV lost their lives, but nearly 1,000 healthcare workers in the United States have died from COVID-19. We mourn their great loss as well the losses of our own family members, friends, and, of course, the patients we lost in spite of our most valiant efforts. We always knew nurses were the backbone of Lenox Hill Hospital, Lenox Health Greenwich Village, and Manhattan Eye, Ear, Throat Hospital, but now the world knows we are its lifeblood. The nurses that make up the New York Professional Nurses Union are a tightly knit group that have a history of meeting every challenge. We were the first union in the country to incorporate nurse-to-patient ratios to ensure safe staffing and we eliminated mandatory overtime because we had proven ourselves to always be reliable – whether it was running to the hospitals on the morning of September 11th or sleeping on cots between shifts after Hurricane Sandy. The Spring of 2020, facing our greatest threat, we stood together, reuniting as many families with their loved ones as we could, and in solidarity with all of New York, we bent the curve. For our nurses, we hope these photos fill you with pride of your exceptionalism and remind you that you are never alone. We will always have each other’s backs. We are indubitably #essential. Together, we are #unstoppable.

Eileen Toback Executive Director, New York Professional Nurses Union 2


Bruce Byers, Photographer and Storyteller At 7:00 p.m. on April 14, 2020, the nurses of Lenox Hill Hospital at Lexington and 77th Street in New York City flooded out of the hospital during their shifts for relief from the ongoing level of stress and death. I caught them spontaneously on camera that night as New York City erupted in cheers for the healthcare workers, a nightly ritual that most nurses couldn’t hear when they were inside the hospital. My intention was to photograph them as unique human beings swept into a global crisis. Their portraits are a tangible way to say “I see you. I appreciate you. You are valued.” I returned the next night with a print of each nurse I photographed and gave them to the nurses as unexpected gifts, reinforcing the fact that they mattered. Each nurse was uplifted and happy in the moment. The city continued to cheer every evening as a public affirmation. The clarity of the nurses’ photographic portraits is a tangible way to indelibly etch into their memories the positive reinforcement and acknowledgment of their essential and lifesaving roles for more than 223,000 New Yorkers. It turned into a 12-week-long ritual for me and the nurses; I have photographed over 500 healthcare workers and given over 2,500 images to them as personal portraits and displays in the hospital. As a professional photographer, I have traveled the world and documented 15 medical missions to help children and families in other parts of the world. I have captured that same story of heroism here in the U.S. for Flashes of Home (children with cancer) and St. Baldrick’s Children with Cancer in NYC. A large part of my career has been dedicated to photographing moments in time – those fleeting and captivating moments capturing ordinary people doing extraordinary things. This commemorative book is created in the honor and heroism of the New York Professional Nurses Union.

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Spring and Summer 2020 came and went, oblivious to the coronavirus. We celebrated Mother’s Day with our patients. We grieved together taking a Memorial Walk in tribute to the lives of our lost co-workers. We celebrated Gay Pride Month. With the BLM movement, we experienced the other pandemic of systemic racism in the U.S. We witnessed firsthand that black and brown people were the most devasted by COVID. We will continue to fight because there is no vaccine for racism. “As a Black healthcare provider, 2020 has shown me the best and worst of humanity. While working the frontlines during a global pandemic we were in the midst of a full-blown civil rights movement. I want people to understand the anguish and pain that many Black employees felt during this time.”

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The voices of the nurses of NYPNU: “Nobody went into nursing thinking we would live through a global pandemic. However, we survived and continue to thrive. I am so proud of Lenox Hill and my fellow NYPNU nurses. After living through this, we can do anything!” “Future generations should know that we didn’t have time to be afraid. We had to be in the room with patients and we spent as much time with them as they needed us for.” “It was a sad time of isolation, masks, gloves, closed stores, empty streets, no friends or families to visit, panicky people scrambling for hand sanitizers; people are staying at home and I get to go to work.”

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And the following individuals and businesses made their generous donations through Lenox Hill Hospital and Northwell:

• Pepsi

• Pure Protein Bars

• High School Chocolate

• MSG (Rangers, Knicks)

• Chick-Fil-A

• Grand Hyatt (gift certificates)

• MSG/Chase (Hometown Heroes Initiative)

• Limoneira

• Metronic

• Rangers cash donations: Jacob Trouba and Brendan Lemieux

• Inspired Beauty Brands* LUSH

• Aeris Copper phone cases

• GrubHub/Hellman’s partnership   (Hellman’s Food Relief Fund – 350 meals to night shift for weeks)

• Nordstrom

• Buca di Beppo (Hop on Hop Off Bus)

• Scunci (button hairband)

• B & H Photo

• Heart Water

• Club Monaco

• Rao’s

• EJ Luncheonette gift cards

• Daelman’s Stroopwafel

• Lila and Hope Rothschild

• Bryan Verona IPADS

• Citarella (Lauren Conforti)

• Robert Wolf (Shake Shack)

• NYC Healthcare Heroes Debra and Leon Black family, Aramark, Mayors fund to advance NYC, Robin Hood, American Red Cross

• Red Kite Candy • Jot • Zitomer’s Drugstore • Waldorf Astoria • Hampton Jitney • Talbots • Founders Give / Cole Riley • QG Floral + Landscape

• Butterfields (Healthcare Heroes Initiative) • Pick A Bagel • SL Green/Food1st Foundation • Central Park Conservancy (Joe Leggio)

• Keho

• CHUBB

• Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright (Verona on Wheels pizza)

• Tunnel to Towers (PPE) • La Maison du Chocolat

• Museum of Ice Cream

• Essential Water (Joe Leggio)

• Joe Chocolate Co

• Voss Water & Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

• Promobile Kitchen

• Rethink/Zevv/11 Madison Park

• NYPD Detective Endowment Association

• Heart Water

• Eats & Beats (DJ Lady Blaga) • Mets (500 lunches + t-shirts) • The Ole Henriksen & Self Esteem Rising Team (Hance Family Foundation) • Hu Chocolate and Coffee • Tower 28 • On Shoe Company + Paragon Sports 55 pairs of shoes


• The Pierre hotel • Chris Anderson (Handcraft coffee) • Flower Flash – Lewis Miller Designs • Jennifer Hampton (Girl Scout Cookies) • UWS school. • Whisps Cheese Crips • Aeris Copper Phone Cases • Fairview Nursing Care Center (Ice Cream Truck) • Cassena Care (Ice Cream Truck) • Kith + Coca-Cola – Coke Floats • Van Vliet Florist – roses • Alexandra Liakeas (Scoops 4 Smiles NYC)

Thinking back on the past few months, I often come back to the words ‘sacrifice and isolation.’ Lives have been lost and our sense of community diminished. I am acutely aware that we have had to function as islands. And so I have brought this to my work. As a nurse, it was sad to watch the effects of the ‘no visitor’ policy at my hospital. Our patients’ only contact was our gloved hands and they could only see our eyes as our heads and bodies were covered with PPE. Families dropped off their loved ones, not knowing if they would have a chance to see them again. I made it a point to make sure that my patients and their families remained connected to each other through phone calls or FaceTime. I knew how much these connections meant because it meant so much to me. Although it felt intrusive and even wrong at times to be in the room listening, it was an honor and privilege to witness some of the most touching expressions of love. For many frontliners like myself, we cared for Covid patients without hesitation. But it didn’t mean we didn’t sacrifice something as well. Anxiety and fear engulfed us because we were unsure and didn’t know if we would catch it or worse yet, if we would bring the virus home to our families. Some of my colleagues sent away their children and for many of us, we accepted the idea of separation from our friends and families for the unforeseen future. Coming to work day to day with these courageous and dedicated healthcare workers helped me to cope. Our isolation became our connection. I truly believe that the sacrifices and isolation we have endured must have meaning. I have learned because of my personal experiences how to be a better nurse. Additionally, it has solidified my commitment to caring for the ill and their families. – Liza Billings, RN (pictured on our cover) NYPNU Delegate , LHGV National Covid Remembrance Day, Oct 4th DC


Profile for Bruce  Byers

Frontline Nurses of Covid-19  

Frontline Nurses of Covid-19 Photography by Bruce Byers 118 pages book of what went on during the first spike and the 7 pm clapping.

Frontline Nurses of Covid-19  

Frontline Nurses of Covid-19 Photography by Bruce Byers 118 pages book of what went on during the first spike and the 7 pm clapping.

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