Editor’s Note: This is an occasional series that examines how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the lives of members of our community.

There has been no routine home health care visit since the onset of covid-19.

Although the spread of the coronavirus has slowed in the area, a daily male nurse from North Huntingdon is busy dispatching around 100 nurses and physical therapists to the homes of patients in Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

“We treat (patients) at home, treat their symptoms … and keep the beds open,” said Eleanor “Lena” Nazarei of UPMC Home Healthcare in West Mifflin.

The home health industry became critical as the covid pandemic spread, Nazarei said. Instead of going to a doctor’s office when they are sick, they are treated at home, which may prevent the virus from spreading further.

While masks, robes, and face shields have become common for their workers, Nazarei said that didn’t stop some nurses from being quarantined, forcing the agency to see more patients with fewer staff.

“We were exposed to Covid several times,” said Nazarei. “We do everything we can to minimize the risk, but when you are a nurse there is always a risk. The job is looking for sick patients. “

On the flip side, some patients feared a nurse could bring the virus into their home and cancel appointments.

“More people who need therapy haven’t gotten it in the last 10 months,” said Nazarei.

Family problems and home schooling for children add stress to many healthcare workers, Nazarei said.

“We’re seeing a very high burnout rate … only in the first year,” she said. “It’s like you’re running a marathon and you don’t know where the finish line is.”

Nazarei herself balanced the demands of a professional career and parenting.

As crazy as the schedule may be and takes its toll on the drive through southwestern Pennsylvania, “the only area of ​​nursing where you have a flexible schedule,” said Nazarei, who has been a home health nurse for six years .

“I could become a nurse, raise my children, and go to school,” she said. “As (traditional) nurses, we are used to stressful 12 to 14 hour shifts and overnight stays. We forget that there are better and healthy work opportunities that you can still help people with without sacrificing your family time. “

Nazarei earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Carlow University in Pittsburgh, where she is doing her PhD.

Creative escapes

While she has a passion for taking care of people through nursing, she loves theater and acting. She took part in school plays and was talented enough to take on roles in theatrical productions in the area. The pandemic lifted these possibilities last year.

“I miss it,” said Nazarei.

In her “free time” and to reduce the stresses of her job and the challenges of being a single mother raising two daughters, she turned her energy to writing a fantasy novel called “Bite Shift”. The main character – a nurse who is a vampire – is based on something she knows and loves.

“I wrote the vampire story I wish I wrote in high school,” said Nazarei, who grew up in Manassas, Virginia, with a lifelong love of fiction.

When she finished the book last year, she was faced with the experiences of many writers. Getting your first book out is a daunting process, with months of rejection.

She eventually launched a fundraising page on social media and received $ 5,800. She has found a publisher and “Bite Shift” is printed “in time for the summer reading”.

It is the first of what she envisions as the “Eternal Night Shift” series that she would like to write.

Her teenage daughters were the biggest motivators for the book’s publication, Nazarei said.

“I want to teach them that just because things don’t go the way you planned or wanted them not to give up,” she said. “Sometimes you have to take a step back and find another way.”

Joe Napsha is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252. [email protected] or via Twitter .

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