HOMETOWN HELPERS: Brooklyn hospital X-ray technologist uses mental prep routine to 'amp up’ for hectic shifts on the coronavirus front line
Gina Torres treats every difficult day at work as her own personal Super Bowl.
The radiologic technologist at Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn knows the amount of stress waiting inside as coronavirus patients pour in day after day. And she wants to deliver nothing but her best despite the inherent risks and staggering workload in the battle against COVID-19.
“It’s like amping yourself up for a big game," said the 16-year medical veteran, a high school gymnast who knows about fighting: She once took boxing lessons.
“You know — let’s get in there, and get this done," she continued. “The amount of work is just tremendous. I’ve never seen anything like this. We have to mentally prepare to do the best we can in the limited amount of time we have, because there’s always another patient waiting.”
The task is truly daunting: Double shifts, the frantic pace and 120 patients coming through her department each day. Chest X-rays are standard for everyone on a respirator as the pandemic continues to pound the city and its health care system. And the technologists are working with portable machines, schlepping the equipment themselves from bed to bed and sliding metal plates beneath each patient’s back for the procedure.
“I’ve definitely gained a lot of muscle mass in the past couple weeks,” said Torres, only half-kidding. “I can’t get to the gym. I don’t have the time or the energy. By the time you’re done, you’re beat.”
Torres, 38, acknowledges the difficulties of suiting up and showing up for shifts that often stretch beyond the usual eight hours. Her alarm clock is now set 30 minutes earlier than usual, giving Torres a little extra time to get her mind right for whatever lies ahead. The morning prep also includes a cup of tea and a prayer for God to watch over her.
Once inside the hospital, the hazards of her work are impossible to ignore. She keeps her cell phone inside a sealed ziplock bag to avoid bringing the virus home with her. And she immediately slips on a protective mask, which stays in place until the end of her shift.
“You think about it, definitely you do,” she acknowledged. "But I personally try to put everything out of my mind. You don’t want to start overthinking. You’re there to make a difference, not just to help with X-rays. You help transport patients, anything the hospital needs.
“Everybody is so overworked and stressed. You try to offer that help to anyone who needs it.”
And when the mother of two finally gets home?
“There is no life outside of work,” she says with a weary laugh. “There just isn’t."