By: Mallika Rao
Last year gave nurse Liza Billings a new perspective on life.
While working at the emergency room in Manhattan’s Lenox Health Greenwich Village hospital, she lost her brother Leo to the COVID-19 virus. On top of that, Billings, 42, braced the early months of the pandemic at an overwhelmed hospital.
Pre-pandemic, she lived a relatively carefree life. As the pandemic hit New York City in March of last year, she had to change her daily habits.
“I am pretty lax in general about coming home,” she said, “but when COVID hit, you had to change everything about your routine.”
She does flash back occasionally to the hardest moments of the pandemic, but they can be hard to bear.
“Sometimes, I will have a throwback to those times,” she said. “I will listen to our nurses talk about what it was like, and I cannot listen to it. It is almost too much to hear about it.”
Billings got to see her brother one last time in the hospital before he passed, but she feels for those who did not have the same chance.
“People would come in [the hospital] and they would drop off their family members,” she said. “You felt for them because you did not know if they were ever going to see them again.”
The turmoil Billings experienced inspired her to speak publicly about then-President Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
She spoke to ABC News at the time of the former president’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
“The people who were in power were not doing the right things and were not bringing out the right messages to people in the country,” she said.
Naturally, Billings received some blowback on social media from detractors, but for every negative direct message was an enlightening sentiment.
She received messages from young people who gained perspective on how detrimental COVID-19 could be.
“It was interesting how [some of them] lived in an area where they did not know a lot about it,” she said. “It was interesting to be able to reach that population.”
Today, Billings is relieved to work at a time where COVID cases are lower than before at her hospital.
“It is a little less heavier,” she said. “As far as work goes, we are kind of going back to normal again.”
This article is part of a series called “On the Frontlines,” where we profile the struggles of those who fought the COVID-19 virus as frontline or essential workers, as they process the toll this pandemic has taken.