Richard Garrett III, ’06, is on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic. The Greece, N.Y., native works for American Medical Response as operations and communications supervisor and chief paramedic for the Rochester Americans, a professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League.
Like many of us, Rich first heard about COVID-19 in January as a virus that was ravaging through China and that might make its way to the United States.
However, unlike most, Rich has seen, firsthand, the level of planning and preparedness that has gone into attempting to control the virus. And he has witnessed the division between those who are hyper-vigilant and taking all the precautions necessary (sometimes to an excessive degree); and those who are failing to give this situation the appropriate caution, refusing to follow social distancing recommendations or even self-isolation recommendations.
The first responder says that working through this pandemic is different from anything he has ever experienced.
“I have worked through several other ‘pandemics’ as they were called (H1N1, SARS, MERS, etc.) and none of them had this same sense of dread to them lingering over our heads,” he said.
“I have been in emergency medicine for the past 14 years, since graduating from NU, and I cannot recall a time when I have felt afraid,” he continued. “There are plenty of times I have questioned treatments or care for a patient, but even in settings with unknown shooters or assailants, or in settings where I have had physical altercations with patients who attacked me, I can never recall feeling truly scared. This is different. There is a looming fear about everything right now. Much of it is because of a lack of information; we just don’t know what we don’t know. But this also comes from the fact that, right now, we just don’t know where or when we may be exposed to COVID-19 so, unfortunately, we are going into every scene, treating every patient as if they may expose us.”
Like ours, Rich’s professional life has changed—he no longer works events at Blue Cross Arena, but he says there is more than enough other work to keep him busy most of the time—as has his personal life. He is single and lives alone so, other than work, he has had little human interaction. Because he remains at high risk for exposure, he doesn’t expect to see his family until late summer to protect them from any risk.
Despite his worries—the fact we are essentially battling the unknown, and how COVID-19 might impact his mother and people like her—he continues to focus on the future and what life will be like when all this is over.
“Like it or not, and whether we realize it or not, COVID-19 has officially changed life as we know it,” he said. “There is no way our lives will be the same after this. (But) when we get through this, and I believe we will, this will leave a lasting mark on all of us. I can only begin to imagine the way this is shaping our country, let alone our world. I believe in our country though, and I believe in humanity, and I am optimistic that we will make the best of this and move forward like we always have.”