(ABC4) – One of the most commonly used sentiments during the pandemic has been calling frontline health care workers ‘heroes.’
Natosha Tullos, an ICU nurse at the University of Utah, however, does not consider herself to be fitting of the lofty moniker.
“I don’t necessarily feel like a hero but I feel honored to be able to take care of our community and our patients,” she tells ABC4.com. “It’s been tough, we’ve lost a lot of our staff so it’s been very mentally, emotionally taxing on our team.”
While she may not call herself a hero, to many people, Tullos is exactly that.
As a way of boosting the spirits of the community, especially of the nurses who have worked tirelessly throughout the ordeal, the local chapter of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses is hosting a 5K run or walk called “Nurses are Superheroes.” Attendees at the event which begins on Oct. 9 at 8:30 a.m, with entry at $5 for kids and virtual participants and $15 for adults, at Bountiful City Park are invited to participate dressed as their favorite superheroes to show appreciation for the nurses.
Even the smallest ‘thank you’ can go a long way, Tullos says.
“When we get a thank you for what we’re doing, we feel like we can keep going,” she explains. “We’ll have doughnuts sent into us and we swarm at the break room like little kids on Christmas. We love that and just knowing we have the support of the public helps a lot.”
As the delta variant and slumping vaccination rates continue to fill Utah hospitals and ICUs, the medical workers charged with healing sick patients, or in many cases, provide some sense of comfort in their final moments, have been greatly affected.
“I never thought I’d experience something of this magnitude in my profession,” the nine-year nursing veteran explains.
Tullos has a vivid memory of one of her nursing instructors at Salt Lake Community College playing the Matt Damon and Kate Winslet-led movie, Contagion, in class one day, telling the students that they would have to face a global pandemic similar to the one dramatically portrayed on the screen.
She brushed it off at the time.
Now that she’s been living in her own version of a dystopian nightmare for over a year and a half, Tullos is frequently tired. Most nights when she comes home from work and slips off her ‘superhero suit’ – which most days is a disposable coverall she wears while tending to COVID-infected patients, Tullos goes outside to her back patio to sit under the stars and unwind. The sounds of Yo-Yo Ma playing the cello serve to set the mood as she contemplates the day that was and the day ahead.
Tullos’ favorite heroes are Wonder Woman and the Disney Princess, Mulan, admiring the latter’s bravery in the face of danger. She says if she was a superhero, her name would probably be ‘Mama Tosh,’ for the way she treats her fellow nurses at the hospital.
“I’m a nurturer, I make sure everyone has lunch breaks and everyone gets fed and everyone gets a hug,” she explains. “I’m kind of the mama bear.”
And even though her work has brought her challenges that seem derived from a Hollywood blockbuster, she’s still proud of what she does, sounding like a true hero in her reasoning.
“We love what we do. We love being able to take care of our patients and our community,” she states convincingly.
“It’s kind of in our blood.”