Who are your heroes?  What qualities do they exhibit and how do they inspire you?  In the challenging times of COVID-19, we celebrate individuals whom we have long thought of as heroes– our health care workers and our first responders.  But we also have other heroes among us.  They might be individuals who are working in grocery stores, doing shopping for those who are too vulnerable to do so themselves or making masks for those in need.  Today I would like to acknowledge a parent and student in our community who are heroes among us.

We know Anita Shah as a parent of a student in our Pre-kindergarten class, others know her better from her work as a board-certified pulmonologist.  Her expertise has become absolutely essential the last several months working in the ICU wards for COVID-19 patients. Before COVID-19, she was able to maintain a better work-life balance, but now with just 7 physicians in their private practice serving patients at Resurrection Hospital, Lutheran General, and a long-term care facility in Des Plaines she and her colleagues have been regularly working 12-14 hour days.  Not only has she been selflessly serving those in need of critical care, but she is volunteering her time to serve in a consultative role for Roycemore’s Health and Safety Task Force in the development of our school’s re-opening plan.  About her work during this time Dr. Shah says, “Medicine is a very humbling profession. I have always felt that being a physician is a privilege and an honor. As a pulmonary critical care physician, the COVID pandemic has been one of the most complex and challenging diseases I have ever encountered. My team and I have lost some patients but have saved countless lives. There is the constant stress of treating patients without exposing myself to the virus but I am fortunate to work alongside an exceptional team of physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists. Additionally, I have the unwavering support of my family, for which I am eternally grateful. I accept the risks of going to work every day because it is my job and I continue to feel honored to be able to care for the sickest patients in their greatest time of need.”

Emeline Fromm is a senior who will soon graduate with the Roycemore Class of 2020.  Before COVID, she worked part-time at Whole Foods to earn some extra money.  Once COVID-19 became a real threat to our community, she had to make a choice, quit her work to protect her own health and well-being, or continue the job and serve the community.  She chose the latter.  In fact, she began working full-time hours in order to cover the shifts of coworkers with vulnerable families who are in quarantine, while also completing her senior year coursework through remote learning.

“I have always liked my job well enough, but I’ve found that working during the pandemic has brought a stronger sense of purpose to the work that we do,” says Emeline. “Working in a grocery store is, at its heart, about making food available to people. There have been times during all of this that I’ve been tempted to take a leave of absence and isolate myself at home because it scares me to think that I could be endangering my family by working, but I remind myself that there are people who wouldn’t be able to eat without the services that we provide and it’s my responsibility to make sure they are able to get in and out of our store as safely as possible. It seems counterintuitive to advice about quarantine and distancing, but in these times it is crucial for essential businesses to be well-staffed. With enough workers in the store, we are able to ensure that customers can get their groceries and check out quickly without waiting in long lines that expose them to more people. I’ve gotten through my anxiety about the pandemic by reminding myself that I’m doing what I do to help both my customers and my coworkers, and although there will always be people who are difficult to deal with, most of our customers are really kind and very grateful to us for working.”

Anita and Emeline are heroes among us.  They are doing their part to help us through one of the most challenging times our country and community have ever experienced.  In addition to them, Roycemore parents include law enforcement officers serving on the front lines, non-profit leaders ensuring homeless individuals have a safe place to live, taxi drivers helping people get to where they need to go, teachers and university professors working with students remotely while also taking care of their own young children at home, business owners providing COVID disinfecting services to area organizations, and many more.  The pandemic has tested us, but it has also brought out the best in us.  Our community is made stronger by the individual acts of selfless service of each of us.  Today, we celebrate everyone for the daily choices they are making for service above self.  You are our heroes!