Heroes Without Capes: WP Nursing Grad Xanilyn Red ’17

Xanilyn Red works alongside her father, Valentine.

What’s been the hardest part about your job during this situation?

“My relationship with death isn’t a new one; I’ve gotten used to experiencing death as an ICU nurse. But this pandemic has drained me emotionally to a new level, as no one who works in healthcare could have ever anticipated this great of volume of death to ever occur,” says William Paterson University nursing graduate Xanilyn Red ‘17.

“The hardest part of my job is maintaining my emotional integrity throughout my shift. This disease has no cure, and these patients crash quickly. Having to pour your heart, soul and sweat into keeping someone alive, only to have them die and having to FaceTime with their loved ones to deliver the news and witness their final interaction together, then to have to continue and be present, and work to keep your other crashing patients alive: It’s a lot to handle,” Red says. 

You are seeing the effects of COVID-19 in a way that most people won’t get to see it. What do you want the average person to know about this virus?

 “I want the average person to not underestimate this virus, but to also not live in fear of it,” Red says.

“This virus does not discriminate on age, sex, race, religion and can impact people very mildly to very severely. The conversation should be geared  towards how to avoid contracting the virus and how to avoid spreading it. Many people can be vectors for the virus and are contagious, despite not presenting symptoms. It's imperative that we continue with the measures we are doing and transition back to normalcy slowly. Eradicating this disease calls on the compliance of the entire nation.

“I wish for no one to ever see what I see in the ICU.”

Your dad works in the same hospital as a respiratory therapist. How has that been during the pandemic? 

“At the start of this pandemic, I drove myself crazy worrying about my dad. Due to his age and past medical history, he’s considered high risk. Plus seeing all these patients that are even younger and healthier than him and dying, it’s impossible not to imagine worst case scenario,” Red says. “Both my parents work in healthcare, so the thought of both of them being exposed to COVID-19 was my worst nightmare.”

“Discussing my concerns with my family and creating protocols for coming home post-shift has lessened my anxiety and has let me be able to reframe my mindset from being ‘what if’ to becoming more present when we are all together,” the alumna adds. 

“In terms of working with my father, I actually look forward to the shifts we both work together. It’s definitely an experience that has tested and strengthened our relationship because we’ve had to have some deep conversation about the future. But ultimately, there’s no other person I’d rather fight this battle with.”  

What’s the best thing you have witnessed at work recently? 

“My team is what keeps me going—they embody resilience. Seeing staff from different departments joining forces with ICU and putting in their full effort is really inspiring,” Red says, explaining how the pandemic “overwhelmed” the hospital’s 28-bed intensive care unit.

Other patient care areas subsequently had to be transitioned to take care of ICU patients, pediatric ICU nurses have been cross-trained, and nurses from other departments that had previous ICU experience have been recruited, too.

“Also, seeing the efforts of the community has truly resonated with me, where I feel like I’m not alone when I’m at work. We’re all truly fighting this battle together,” Red says. “Many people have reached out to donate homemade masks and care packages, and local business have donated food to the hospital as well. Any light of positivity goes a really long way for the morale of our staff, and is tremendously appreciated for keeping us going.

“And despite all the bad coming out of this, there are patients that are improving and getting better. Whenever I come onto my night shift, and the day shift updates me that a patient I took care of has been downgraded or discharged—there is no greater feeling of relief,” Red explains.

“Every life that is saved makes this fight all worth it.”