For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a nurse. I felt called to be a nurse. For 30 years, I have felt that my duty is to help people feel better when they may be having the absolute worst day of their life. In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, I would take off my gloves to hold the hands and listen to fears of newly diagnosed patients. That was a scary time to be a nurse. As is now.
Eight weeks ago, I became ill a few days after taking care of a patient with pneumonia. I had the main three symptoms of the new virus. After two weeks of quarantine and waiting, I had a negative result, but mixed emotions. I was very much afraid of bringing it home to my husband who is “age-qualified” and I also was hoping to go back to work with some immunity to it. However, due to changes in staffing, cancellations of surgeries and a very low census, I was not needed.
Now, I am searching for other nursing options, but I still feel the need to support my co-workers in some way, so calling on my other passion, I paint them. I have painted three with a fourth being planned. Pictured here is Mia. A dynamic nurse with aspirations of becoming a nurse anesthetist, she is always up for a challenge and deliberately steps up her game so she can learn more. She has a keen eye for detail and is loved by her patients. If I were a patient in the hospital, I certainly would want her as my nurse. Also, a mother to three small children, she works night shift on a COVID unit. This painting depicts her after deliberately quarantining herself from her family for over a week to protect them from the virus. She would drive by her house and watch from her car as her husband played with the children in the yard. This is an image that departs from her famously known smile which is beautiful, just like her spirit. I sought to capture the determined look of a nurse who is not going to give in.
Every day, I curiously read about the medical particulars and peculiarities of this bug and became more concerned. But, knowing there are dedicated and driven researchers, scientists, and bedside caregivers like Mia gives me hope.
Susan Cartledge is a native of Tennessee and graduate of the University of Louisville School of Nursing. She lives in Apex, NC, with her husband Tony. Together they enjoy travel, hiking, and watching their four adult sons make their way in the world. More of Susan’s art can be found at paintberrystudio.com.