As we approach one year since COVID-19 arrived in Rhode Island, 12 News is bringing you special reports all this week at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. They’re stories of heartache, heroes and hope.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Over the past year, it feels as though life has been put on pause.
But not for Julia Alves, who’s been a nurse in the ICU at Rhode Island Hospital for more than a decade.
“I work with the sickest of the sick,” Alves said. “I work with patients on ventilators, special drips.”
She first spoke with 12 News back in December when the coronavirus vaccine was first administered to dozens of the state’s health care workers.
Alves was one of those health care workers to be vaccinated that day.
“I am just very excited to have been vaccinated,” she said soon after receiving her shot.
At that time, Rhode Island was in the thick of the second wave, with the state averaging more than 1,000 cases daily.
Alves tells 12 News she’s seen the coronavirus take the lives of patient after patient, and witnessing the worst of the virus began taking its toll on her both physically and mentally.
“It started to get a little emotionally exhausting and you almost feel defeated,” Alves said. “A lot of those patients walked into the hospital by themselves, and they don’t leave the hospital … that was the hardest part.”
“By the time I got home [each day], I think I was drained,” she continued.
Alves is married and has two children, ages 7 and 14. She said the virus made its way into her home last November, when her husband tested positive.
Her husband recovered, but Alves said soon after, her mother also tested positive and had to be admitted to the hospital.
“What I remember the most is bringing her in and not being able to come into the hospital with her,” she said. “I understand what people are going through, not being able to be there with their loved ones.”
Thankfully, her mother also made a full recovery and has since been vaccinated.
Ever since the vaccine first arrived in Rhode Island, Alves said she’s been seeing “a very big difference” at work. Right now, the number of patients in the ICU are not only down, but the lowest they’ve been in months.
“My hope is that everyone will get vaccinated,” she said. “So that way we can eventually get rid of this pandemic, and I think that is the only way to end this pandemic is through vaccinations.”
In the meantime, Alves said everyone should continue to wear their masks and practice social distancing. But while both practices will be sticking around for awhile, she believes a sense of normalcy isn’t that far off.