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Person of the Week
Tracy Wolkovitz Grateful for Support She’s Received as an R.N.
Tracy Wolkovitz has seen friends, family, and the community come together to support her throughout the past year as she served as a nurse on the Yale New Haven Hospital COVID floor. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Wolkovitz)
Tracy Wolkovitz has worked as a nurse on the same floor for nearly 13 years, seeing some changes over the years. Originally, she worked for St. Raphael’s Hospital, which then became part of Yale New Haven Hospital. Tracy’s floor first served as a medical surgery floor before shifting to cardiac observation and then regular observation, which monitors patients beyond the emergency room, but before they are admitted to the hospital.
Over the years, Tracy has adapted, learned, and “changed with the floor,” but last March, she faced the biggest change of her career. One day she walked into work and was told her floor would be a COVID floor.
“Initially we weren’t that busy and then the numbers started to spike—that’s when reality hit,” says Tracy. “At first it came with a lot of fear—fear of what I might bring home to my two boys and my husband. One night, I had a patient in his 30s who was very sick and I realized how real this was and that it could happen at any age. I never meant to have a job that might harm my family.”
After one shift (Tracy works overnights 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.) she came home exhausted and upset and vented to her husband, Keith, about the challenges, including not having enough Lysol to sanitize her belongings when she got home. Keith wrote a post on Facebook and soon Tracy’s spirits were lifted.
“The next thing you know there were cans showing up in the mailbox with notes on the bottles,” says Tracy. “I had friends who came from Rocky Hill to do that. I was definitely spoiled.”
That wasn’t the only way that Tracy felt the love as she worked on the front lines. Many of her friends prepared and delivered home-cooked meals for her family and she received countless messages, texts, and calls from friends and acquaintances checking in.
The families on her son’s football team held a collection in order to send meals to Tracy and her coworkers at the hospital. Other friends collected money for deliveries of cookies and other baked goods for Tracy’s floor and other floors in the hospital.
“We were all so grateful for everything and knowing people were thinking about us meant a lot,” says Tracy. “We have amazing friends and their support was amazing. They made me feel like a celebrity. I truly thank them and am so grateful for everything.”
Tracy admits how difficult the past year has been for herself and her coworkers. She stressed the importance of them being able to lean on each other throughout the pandemic as the faced challenges they hadn’t faced in the past.
With visitors restricted, the staff at the hospital had to be the “eyes for family members.” They quickly became more tech savvy and were able to facilitate FaceTime meetings so loved ones were able to connect with patients.
Just walking into a room was a new challenge as everyone who entered a COVID patient’s room had to “gear up.” Once inside, there was a higher level of bedside care, closely monitoring stats as a patient’s condition could very quickly decline, and working to get patients into the ICU with limited space available.
“It was sad having so many patients pass away, which we weren’t used to on our floor, so dealing with that was a lot of pressure,” says Tracy. “Thank God for my coworkers because we understood each other. Whether it was crying together, de-stressing, or just talking to each other, those are the people who understood what you were going through.”
Finding her Path
Tracy always knew she wanted to work in the medical field. She began her career as a medical assistant for an ophthalmology group, but remembers being intrigued by the nurses she saw when she visited her aunt in the hospital when she was younger. She decided to pursue her R.N., taking classes at night while working.
Once she finished nursing school, she and Keith got married and she took the job as a nurse that she still holds now. Tracy grew up in New Britain and Keith grew up in North Haven and was passionate about them raising their family in his hometown.
“He had nothing but amazing things to say about this town and moving here was the best decision we ever made,” says Tracy. “We’re very social and we’ve made such a great group of friends since we moved here.”
Tracy and Keith have two boys, 11-year-old Justin and 8-year-old Ryan. Both have played football, basketball, and baseball since they were able to and through their time on the sidelines, they have found their “family” in the parents of their sons’ teammates.
Most of their sons’ activities have been put on hold due to COVID, though they have been able to participate in some small-group baseball training and are hoping for a spring season. Even though they haven’t been able to see their friends on the sideline, Tracy enjoys unwinding with neighbors or friends in the driveway.
Keith is a teacher in New Haven and has been teaching from home for most of the year, only just recently moving to a hybrid model, going into school four days a week and teaching from home on Wednesdays. Between Tracy’s overnights and need to sleep when she gets home and Keith being online teaching from home, Tracy has seen her sons step up.
“At the beginning, I’d get home and stay up until he was done teaching at 1, but that was way too difficult to continue so now I rest and they know I’m there for emergencies,” says Tracy. “My kids are awesome and they get what I do. They know we don’t do hugs right away and that I have to clean up and change before I can do anything with them. Our parents are super supportive and helpful in any way they can be and my husband has been the rock, listening to me vent or being there when I’m uncertain and crying.”
This isn’t the only time the Wolkovitz family rallies together. During the holiday season, they often do collections for family’s in Keith’s school, collecting food at Thanksgiving or gifts during the holidays.
After nearly a year of the unknown, Tracy is starting to sense a return to normalcy. She is feeling more confident heading into work now that she has had both doses of her COVID vaccine. The positivity rates have also been improving, evidenced by her floor returning to a regular floor.
“I had my first night last week working back on a regular floor. It was so strange, but so much easier to go into a room be able do little things,” says Tracy. “Our numbers as far as hospitalizations have gone down and now on the St. Raphael’s campus, we only have two or three COVID floors instead of seven. We’re heading in the right direction.
“A lot of front-line workers are getting vaccinated and it’s what’s going to make a difference,” adds Tracy. “If everybody is patient and keeps doing what’s being asked, hopefully we can all be on those baseball fields again, having gatherings, and living life.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .