By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Some might describe nurses as angels in PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) in this time of the coronavirus. One of them, Carrie Seyb, a 38-year-old nurse anesthetist with ties to the Diocese of Davenport, volunteered to work in the Intensive Care Unit at her hospital in the Chicago suburbs to care for COVID-19 patients earlier this month.
“I could not sit on the sidelines,” the wife and mother of four young children told CBS Chicago during an interview about her experience in ICU with patients suffering from the coronavirus. “If it was one of my family members, I would want someone taking care of them when they are so scared.”
Seyb, who grew up in the Quad Cities and was married at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Davenport, worked for two weeks in the ICU unit at Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview, Illinois, because nurses with ICU experience were needed to care for COVID-19 patients.
One patient who entered the ICU in respiratory distress was in healthcare herself, and knew the seriousness of her illness. “She asked me for a rosary,” Seyb told The Catholic Messenger. “She obviously wanted something to hold on to, to pray.”
Fulfilling that request was no small task. Rosaries were not available because of the COVID-19 protocols at the hospital. After her 13-hour shift, Seyb left the hospital to get a rosary. To save time she went to the home of her aunt, who gave Seyb a rosary blessed in Jerusalem to take back to the hospital.
She dropped off the rosary with a colleague, a nurse anesthetist like herself, who promised to give the rosary to the patient. “She was holding the rosary in her hands,” Seyb said the colleague told her afterward. The patient did not survive.
Seyb, a member of St. Mary Catholic Church in Lake Forest, Illinois, said she knew what she was getting into before volunteering for the emotionally draining assignment. She made the decision with the blessing of her family. “I gave it up to God. I really believe there is a plan. I am a nurse, and I am here to help.”
She worked three, 13-hour shifts each of the two weeks and felt protected at the hospital because she had the proper PPE. It tugged at her heart, though, to know that patients were scared and unable to have family at their side because of the pandemic. The PPE also can be intimidating to patients. “It’s scary to see us in that gear. That heightens their anxiety,” she said. “It’s my job to comfort them.”
At the end of the day, she exercised, meditated and depended on her Catholic faith to keep her spirits up, she said. “If I didn’t have my faith, I couldn’t get through it.”
Her volunteer assignment has ended and now she’s enjoying time at home with her husband and children. As for the hospital’s ICU COVID-19 unit, “I’m on standby, if they need me.”