We throw around the word hero a lot. For some, it can be a service member, a police officer, a frontline health care worker: people we idolize for their courageousness, their noble qualities, their achievements.
During the pandemic, however, the definition of a hero changed for some.
“My dad was my hero for sure," said Caroline Keith, a registered nurse.
"My wife, just because of the way she’s handled everything," added Dr. Namdi Nwafo, an internal medicine pediatrician.
For millions of frontline workers across the country, the stress of the pandemic has led to certain hardships we sometimes think heroes are immune to or can power through. But just as nurses and doctors have shown up for us, they have had people show up for them.
“There was one extremely difficult shift that I had and to be completely honest I left in tears," said Keith. "I remember actually calling him when I was on my way home, and I was like, 'What did I do wrong? I keep replaying this, am I missing something?' And he was like, 'You did the best you can. That’s all you really can do,' and that helped, too, because again with nurses hearing that from a physician and from someone you’ve looked up to your whole life, it was extra special.”
Dr. Nwafo agrees. His wife, Nanka, has managed to home school and care for their two kids, work at her law firm, and support Nwafo.
“Every single day that I leave the house, or I come back, I see [how much she cares]," he said. “We started this process, especially when she was going through that stressful time, and we’d take a walk. It’s something we now take our time to do, specifically just us. We still have the time with the kids, but it’s something we actively take our time to do together.”
By definition, a hero is someone we idealize for extraordinary traits, but to some, a hero is someone who can simply be there, always.